After boom years shift in Australian Nut Exports forecast

The real value of tree nut exports almost quadrupled to $945 million in the five years to 2015–16. That was one of the more remarkable points made within this year’s Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)’ agricultural commodities Outlook 2017 report. The strongest performers were almonds and macadamias, which continue to boast big future potential backed by impressive export figures. From 2010–11 to 2014–15, almond production grew by 83 per cent to 63,000 tonnes and macadamia production by 38pc to 40,000 tonnes. Over the medium term, tree nut production is projected to increase slowly as tree plantings from the late 2000s reach full maturity. However there could be a slight dip in the road ahead with ABARES forecasting nut exports to fall year-on-year to $760 million in 2016–17 but to remain at the second-highest on record. This was put down to renewed competition from the United States as the high production state of California comes out of drought.

Exports are projected to recover over the medium term to around $900 million in 2021–22. “Australian almond production expanded rapidly in the five years to 2015–16, resulting from large plantings in 2006 and 2007,” the report said. “Around 80,000 tonnes of kernel were produced in 2015–16. Production is expected to reach more than 90,000 tonnes by 2021–22 as recent plantings reach maturity.”

The Australian almond industry is export oriented, with two-thirds of production exported in 2015–16. Australia is now the second-largest almond exporter in the world but that’s a title put into perspective when it’s considered that in 2015–16 Australia exported only around 55,000 tonnes of kernel — less than 10 per cent, by volume, of US exports. According to ABARES, almond prices increased by 60pc between mid 2014 and mid 2015 because water scarcity in California constrained production.

“Prices are expected to weaken over the medium term, assuming water supplies in California are replenished and production recovers,” the report said.

In the decade leading up to 2013-14, macadamia production was steady at around 30,000 tonnes. “More recent plantings increased  production in 2014–15 to 40,000 tonnes, and production is projected to continue to expand over the medium term,” ABARES said. “Australia is the largest global exporter of macadamias. China is the largest market for Australian macadamias, valued at $55 million in 2015–16. The report noted the impacts of the China – Australia Free Trade Agreement, with the tariff rate on macadamia nuts scheduled to decrease from the base rate of 24pc to zero in 2019.

The Australian Macadamia Society’s (AMS) 2017 recent crop forecast put production at 54,000 tonnes in-shell at 10pc moisture (50,500 tonnes at 3.5pc moisture), representing a fourth consecutive year of steady growth for the industry. The 2017 crop is expected to be 4pc higher than the record 2016 crop, with the Bundaberg and Northern Rivers growing regions predicted to increase production despite dry growing conditions. AMS chief executive officer Jolyon Burnett said the continued growth to the sustained investment into orchards by growers over the past four to five years. “The Australian industry will continue to be a consistent reliable supplier into the future due to this investment and plans for further orchard expansion in many regions,” Mr Burnett said. “We are seeing the results of continued investment by growers into industry-wide productivity practices like Integrated Orchard Management, which leads to better soil and tree health and higher yields.

Mr Burnett says substantial new plantings and the establishment of several large new orchards, many in new growing areas, stand the industry in good stead for the future. “These orchards will come into full production approximately seven years after planting,” he said.

The first estimate of the crop based on actual receivals by participating handlers will be released in July.​ The story World shelling out for our tree nuts first appeared on Farm Online.