The March California Almond Industry Position Report was released today. Shipments for March were 151.3 million lbs, up 8% from the prior year. YTD total shipments increased to 1,370.6 million lbs, up 4% from the prior year. The 2013 crop edged over 2.0 billion as expected. Inventory at the end of March was 890 million lbs, with 2013 crop carry-out projecting to be between 345-365 million lbs.
Once again, The U.S. market continues to lead growth, up 9% for the month and 13% YTD. The Asia-Pacific markets, with light inventories, showed a 2% increase over last year. Japan and India both showed double-digit increases in shipments for March, though India is still down 25% YTD, European markets continue to ship steadily, up 20% YTD in Western Europe. The Middle East/Africa region was up 38% in March, and is up 15% YTD.
2013 Crop commitments increased to 8% YTD over last year. New commitments in March were 117 million lbs, an increase of 33% from February indicating that global demand continues to adapt to 2013’s higher pricing.
2014 Crop bloom weather was excellent, with very good bee flight hours and moderate temperatures, throughout the bloom. After 60 days with no precipitation in California’s “rainy season”, late February to early April brought modest relief to the drought. Even with the recent rainfall, YTD totals remain woefully low.
Reservoir water storage remains very low. Drought will impact growers differently from region to region. Access to water is a complicated political maze in California. The state water supply is managed through numerous different federal, state, and municipal water districts. California agriculture competes for agency managed water with requirements for urban and environmental uses. Growers are also drilling a significant number of new wells to tap ground water supplies. The average cost of water for handlers will be significantly higher this coming year.
With very little historical precedent to project the level of drought impact on the 2014 crop, a crop of ~ 2 billion is currently projected. Mid-April temperatures have turned upward, ranging from 10 degrees Fahrenheit and more above average. For all of California agriculture, the water outlook creates the most uncertainty. Short-term concerns include impact on the 2014 almond crop, including the crop size, CPO counts, and overall quality.
NASS issues the Acreage report on April 24, followed by the Subjective Crop Estimate on May 1, and finally the Objective Crop Estimate on June 30.