Tim Jackson, ABA CEO, Peter Hayes, ABA Chairperson
AFTER enduring high rainfall and flooding, growers are now receiving long-range predictions around weather patterns that suggest normal seasons will be a thing of the past.
Predictions that weather across the growing regions in Victoria, SA and NSW will swing between wet and very dry will pre-empt further planning around drying strategies post-harvest and mid to long-term water management purchasing structures.
Recent news that the Federal Government is considering buybacks of irrigation water within the Murray Darling Basin has the potential to influence the market and pricing of permanent and short-term leased water.
The almond industry continues to be involved in a number of forums to put forward updated solutions that deliver triple bottom line outcomes that meet environmental, social and commercial parameters.
The National Irrigators Council and NFF have been advocating for a modernised approach to deliver the desired outcomes from the original Murray Darling Basin Plan.
It is worth noting that despite perceptions that irrigators dominate water use in the basin, the actual consumption figures tell a very different story.
Only 33% of all water in the basin is used for consumptive purposes. This includes irrigation and community uses.
The Varroa mite incursion in Newcastle enters its tenth month.
The NSW DPI still believes it is technically feasible to eradicate the mite and plans have been well underway to open interstate borders to facilitate the movement of beehives.
Unfortunately, the progress on this harmonised movement has been stalled by recent detections outside the quarantine zone.
More work is being done on the traceability of those detections but at this point the NSW DPI believe it is still practical to stick with a National Response Plan that is focused on eradication.
Naturally, beekeepers and almond growers are getting increasingly worried about when beehive movements will begin. For a short time, Victoria beekeepers could bring their NSW-based hives back home, but all this has been stopped due to recent detections.
These detections were the result of a rogue beekeeper moving hives out of the red zone of the eradication zone and into what has been considered the mite-free blue zone that covers most of NSW.
This has had a huge impact on beekeepers and has delayed the interstate movement process as neighbouring states seek further assurances that this is directly attributed to the one rogue beekeeper.
The ABA continues to communicate with the various State biosecurity agencies as well as the NSW DPI and Plant Health Australia around seeking solutions that will ensure the 2023 almond pollination season in August goes ahead via a harmonised bee movement permit system.
The 2023 Australian crop looks like falling short of pre-season expectations.
Early season yields have been disappointing.
Growers are attributing the downturn to a very poor pollination season and ongoing conditions that have been far from optimal.
The industry’s tonnage timeline had originally set a target of 165,000 tonnes of kernel weight to be produced in 2023.
Before harvest, the industry reset those expectations at 156,200 tonnes, but it now looks like the crop will be no bigger than 2022’s 143,805 tonnes.
More to come on this in the coming weeks as harvest is completed and the ABA aggregates industry outcomes to post a renewed estimate.
The industry will also complete a study of the yields within the engine room of Victorian orchards that could not source required stocking rates of beehives during pollination.
This will provide further insights into the economic impact of lock down of beehive movements.
The ABA will receive an initial report on a self-funded spatial mapping study on almond plantings across Australia.
The board commissioned renowned Californian spatial mapping experts LandIQ to conduct the study along the same lines in which they conduct the biennial plantings survey for the Almond Board of California (ABC).
Their results have been a game changer for the ABC and we believe the accuracy and timeliness of the data provided through the study will ensure the most informed decisions are being made on a wide range of fronts within the industry.
LandIQ boasts an almost 99% accuracy on its mapping process, which in our case also involved travelling 5000km across five days in early January to ground-truth its findings.
Recently the ABA received an enquiry from LandIQ about a potential almond orchard they discovered being grown under shade cloth near Margaret River in WA.
ABA had no idea about this orchard and followed up with the landowners and discovered that LandIQ was correct.
Unfortunately, the Margaret River will not be counted as a new growing region as the owners informed the ABA that the orchard had been less than successful for a range of reasons and was likely to be pulled out.
The discovery of the orchard highlighted the comprehensive nature of LandIQ’s spatial mapping.
The ABA conducted a trade mission to India in early March.
Visits to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangaluru were an eye opener.
The country is modernising quickly and the opportunities for selling more Australian almonds are plentiful.
The new Australian-India Economic Co-operative Trade Agreement has opened up new pricing opportunities and placed Australian almonds on advantageous terms.
For the first time purchasing Australian kernel is a viable option. The 50% reduction in tariffs has resulted in the following differences with California almonds:
Inshell 17 rupees v 40 rupees
Kernel 50 rupees v 120 rupees.
The Austrade team led by John Southwell assisted the ABA by hosting a buyers’ seminar at the Mumbai Consulate and then face-to-face meetings with key figures at Amazon, Big Basket, Flipcart and Ninjacart in Bangaluru.
All were very keen to see Australian almonds increase their profile with consumers.
Their penetration across India was comprehensive with customers bases of between 350 million and 450 million people.
Thanks to the hospitality of Mumbai almond buyer Samir Bhanushali, the ABA contingent were treated to a day-long tour of Mumbai.
This included a visit to Samir’s BRC accredited processing factory on the outskirts of the city, a presentation at the Bombay Stock Exchange where almonds are being traded and a visit to the Mumbai Produce Market where a number of the traders operate.
Traditionally almonds into India have been traded via the Khari Baoli market in Delhi and distributed through India from there.
This appears to be changing and the Indian Government is currently building a new mega-port that will consolidate stock and supply 14 ports around India.
This too will be a game changer.
Pricing for almonds in the world market has steadied since Gulfood in February.
Signs that pricing might improve in the year ahead are being prefaced by the pessimistic outlook for the 2023 Californian crop due to poor weather during bloom and since.
A light year in production should help the world almond stocks come back into balance from a supply-demand perspective and see pricing improve from very low levels.
The gap between nonpareils and pollinators remains relatively small, but has firmed on the back of improved demand in most markets.
All eyes will be on the May Subjective Estimate from California as there is speculation that the crop might be lower than this year.
Australian export trade remains on record pace as volumes exceeded last year’s volumes, with China up 44% and total exports up 13%.