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A record crop of 82,509 tonnes was grown in 2015. Over the past five years export sales have increased 481%. In 2015 almond sales represented more than a third of the value of all Australian horticultural exports. Domestic and overseas demand for Australian almonds grew in the past year, with the industry achieving a farmgate value of $1 billion for the first time as record prices were achieved.
Sales on the domestic market increased 4% during the marketing year from March 2015 to February 2016, and totalled 22,915 tonnes. Of this, 21,208 tonnes were Australian almonds and 1,707 tonnes were imported. Over the past five years domestic sales have increased 46%. The range of almond products and their versatile use, from in-shell to almond milk, saw almonds used in 297 new products appearing on Australian supermarket shelves in 2015.
The Australian almond industry has come a very long way in a short period of time with massive increases in production since the planting boom of the mid 2000s. In 2015, almonds gross value of production was more than 10% of Australian horticulture’s GVP and the industry is undergoing a further period of orchard expansion.
The information contained in this booklet provides industry stakeholders, government and those in the broader community with the key statistics on the productive capacity, crops, markets and demand for Australian almonds within the global context.
The booklet is prepared on a marketing year basis spanning March to February and based on data provided to the ABA from growers, processors and marketers on a confidential basis. Information was also sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian Nut Industry Council (ANIC), International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) and the Almond Board of California (ABC). This assistance is gratefully acknowledged.
The information contained in this document assists in the planning and execution of the ABA’s programs to benefit industry.
Almonds were first planted in Australia on Kangaroo Island in 1836 and soon spread to private gardens throughout Adelaide and other South Australian towns due to the state’s suitable Mediterranean climate.
The scale of orchard plantings has changed dramatically since then as Australia’s Murray River communities have the ideal growing conditions for growing almonds. Australian almonds now make up about 8% of global and most of domestic supply. According to ABA data there are around 150 Australian almond growing enterprises and of those 68% consist of properties less than 50 hectares.
Since 2001 the total area planted to almonds has increased from 5,232 hectares to 31,115 hectares in 2015. The planting of almond trees reached a peak in 2007 when 7,371 hectares of orchard were established. In the ensuing eight-year period, plantings slowed with a total of 7,935 hectares added. However, this has changed with significant new plantings occurring and planned for the next few years.
Australian production is centered in the Murray Valley, eastward from the Northern Adelaide Plains to the Riverland, Sunraysia and Riverina regions. Some smaller orchards still remain at Willunga, the pioneering region for Australian almonds and the most recent area to be planted is the Swan region of Western Australia.
Almond trees take three years to bear a crop and around seven years to reach mature production levels at conventional tree spacing. Presently 2,455 hectares or 7.9% of orchard plantings are not yet bearing a crop, and 8.2% of bearing trees are not yet fully mature. The industry’s production will continue to trend upwards in coming years towards 90,000 tonnes regardless of future plantings and may reach 130,000 tonnes by 2025 if development continues as indicated.
The annual crop faces risks from pests, fungal diseases, poor cross pollination and rain during harvest. Good orchard management in terms of irrigation and nutrition are also critical to maximising the potential crop. Australia’s almond growers are world leaders in water use efficiency, with over 90% of almond orchards under drip systems that allow for precise timing and rates of irrigation.
Almonds have become an attractive crop for investors because the industry has proven to be profitable and stable over the longer term. Reasons for this include the ability to develop and manage orchards on a larger scale, the adoption of best available growing technologies and a cohesiveness within industry to work in a co-operative manner to develop markets and address issues of concern.
Marketing the Brand ‘Australian Almonds’
A key feature of our Export Market Development Program is our collaborative work in marketing the brand ‘Australian Almonds’ in our export markets. International programs are strategically focused on expanding almond consumption in priority markets to optimise returns.
During 2015/16, the industry exhibited at major international trade fairs covering both current major markets and potential growth regions at events in Germany, the UAE, Japan, Korea, and China attracting key customers from Europe, India, the Middle East, and Asia.
Trade education regarding Australia’s productive capacity, good growing environment and agricultural practices are important components of our market development program, enabling continued market growth. The continuing goods news on the health benefits from eating almonds is also a major driver of consumer demand.
With more than 70% of Australia’s almonds exported, the ABA works closely with industry and government representatives to identify and recommend solutions to issues that could impact on almond export sales.
In order to stimulate top-of-mind consumer awareness on the domestic market and encourage greater consumption, the ABA conducts a promotion program involving media advertising, PR and social media.
Supply & Demand
The almond industry is growing very rapidly in terms of production and value. Global almond production has more than doubled since 2004 to 1.1 million tonnes in 2015. The rapid growth in local production has meant the supply of Australian almonds now far exceeds consumption within the domestic market. For every tonne sold in Australia, nearly three tonnes are exported. Consumer demand for almonds continues to increase globally and this trend is expected to continue due to the positive almond health message and growth of incomes, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.
The rapid rise in the global price during 2015 was matched by a rapid decline in sales as the principles of Economics 101 came to the fore. Price rises do slow demand.
Consumer demand for almonds continues to increase strongly, both domestically and globally, in the absence of significant price rises. In the past five years Australian consumption has risen by more than 40%, whilst global demand has doubled in the past decade. This trend is expected to continue as living standards in developing countries rise, the range of new products using almonds expands rapidly and consumers turn to healthy food products.
As almonds can be processed into a range of products they are used as an ingredient in many supermarket products to provide flavour, texture and a healthy image. Almonds have remained the number one nut in global new product introductions since 2007 and in 2015, 297 new products were introduced to Australian supermarket shelves containing almonds as an ingredient. These new products appeared in categories including snacks, breakfast cereals, baking, confectionery and dairy products.
Almonds are an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, dietary fibre and monounsaturated fat which has been associated with substantially decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Australian’s are close to consuming one kilogram of almonds for every man, woman and child. This is one of the highest per capita consumptions in the world, and is still increasing at a strong rate.
Major Export Regions
Fifty countries now buy Australian almonds, with India being Australia’s largest overseas market. With their dynamic economies and large populations of increasingly prosperous and health conscious consumers, Indian and Asian markets will continue to import more almonds well into the future.
These markets received record export shipments from Australia in the 2015 marketing year and India remained our largest export destination. Free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China assisted sales to these countries and Asian exports increased from 6% to 10% of total Australian export sales during the year. An increase of 1161% in sales moved Japan from thirty-sixth position to nineteenth in terms of value. With this FTA driven market growth potential in mind, the ABA’s Export Marketing Strategy has invested in these countries as priority development markets.
As the Californian almond industry supplies 80% of the world’s demand and the global almond price is quoted in US dollars per pound, the export return for Australian almonds in our local currency is heavily influenced by the prevailing exchange rate between the A$ and the US$.
A strong Australian dollar delivers lower returns for almond exports, whilst the weaker A$ delivers better returns once the US$ price is converted.
In June 2013, the Australian dollar fell below parity for the first time since September 2010 and has remained this way since. The weaker A$ is one reason market returns have improved in recent years.
While Australian almonds are typically harvested during the months of February to April each year, harvesting of northern hemisphere almonds typically occurs between August to October. Californian almond shipments (sales) for each annual crop are therefore recorded starting in the month of August through to July each year.
In 2015, California entered their fourth year of drought, which has impacted on yields, quality and operating costs. Despite improved rainfall and snowpack in California during their Winter, the US industry will enter their new crop marketing year with nearly 60% of California being categorized as being in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. The objective US crop estimate for 2016 forecasts production at 2.05 billion pounds of kernel or 930,000 tonnes. This is almost an 8% increase on last year’s crop following a good pollination period and new plantings coming into production.
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