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Differential between wholes and brokens has come down to more realistic levels
Friday, 07 January, 2022, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
A Cashew Market report – 2021 Review and 2022 Outlook recently released by Samsons Traders shows that the biggest cashew news for 2021 was the huge jump in Cambodia RCN export to Vietnam – up by 445% from 210,000MT to 1,100,000MT for Jan-Nov 2021.  There are several theories but none of them is a satisfactory explanation. Meantime, current year figures give distorted supply situation. To give a perspective of the extent of distortion, here is a summary of Jan-Nov 2021 figures of Vietnam Imports & Exports :

-       Vietnam import of 3M tonne plus local crop of 400K tonne of domestic crop gives a total 2021 RCN availability of 3.40M tonne which equals approx 750K tonne of kernels.

-       Vietnam export of 560K tonne of kernels which includes about 72K of re-exports (about 90% of African kernels imported). Nett kernel exports = 488K.

-       This means the increase in Vietnam inventory is 750 – 488 = 262K tonne of kernels or 1.20M tonne of RCN which is unlikely.

Until the mystery is solved, it is impossible to get real supply figures. But, taking into account possible under reporting in previous years and increase in current year crop, it would be reasonable to estimate import of Cambodia to be 350 to 400K tonne of RCN.  Considering this, the situation would be as follows :

-       Vietnam 2021 RCN imports would be 2.30M tonne (3M – 0.70M) giving total RCN availability of 2.70M tonne = 600K tonne of kernels

-       This means – even after bringing down Cambodia figures - Vietnam inventory increase is 600 – 488 = 112K tonne of kernels or 485MT of RCN.  This is very large increase - about 2 months of Vietnam processing or over 10% of World RCN production.

The second big news is the increase in Africa’s role in the Cashew Processing. Africa already accounts for close to 60% of the World Cashew production with the largest producer – Ivory Coast contributing 1 million tonne (close to 25% of World production). Now, in the last 2-3 years, processing in Africa has increased significantly.  This is evident from the 60% increase in Vietnam imports of African kernels (51K to 81K tonne in Jan-Nov) plus similarly significant increases in imports by USA & EU.

Two other highlights, continuing from 2020, were Covid & Logistics.

Covid restrictions impacted production and movement of product from Vietnam for several months.  Production and consumption in India was also impacted for a few weeks, twice or thrice. There was not much impact on supplies from Africa or consumption in the importing countries.

Logistics continued to be a big problem for kernels from Vietnam to USA & EU. Freight rates have been going up continuously since second half of 2020 with a big jump at the end of 2021.  Current freight is close to US$ 10000 to EU and over US$ 18000 to USA.  Availability of containers and space on vessels has been tight. Vessel cancellations, roll-overs and congestion in transit ports have resulted in delays in arrival of goods at destination.

There is not much to talk about prices which have been steady in a narrow range. For most of the year, W320 have traded in the range of 2.80-3.10 FOB Vietnam except for a brief spike in May-Aug when business was done in range of  3.10-3.40 FOB Vietnam.  African processed cashew have been trading about 20-25 cents higher because of lower freight, lower transit and in many cases, better quality. Exports from India were low – probably the lowest in history - with only some niche buyers willing to pay the higher Indian prices. However, India’s import of RCN and consumption of kernels were steady.

One point worth mentioning is that differential between Wholes and Brokens have come down to more realistic levels – Splits about 50-60 cents below W320 and LP about 1.00 below W320. This is due to better processing leading to reduced availability of Brokens and more uses for Brokens.

Similarly, RCN prices were steady for most of the year in the range of US$ 1100 to US$ 1400 C&F with an increase to US$ 1500-1600 in Q4 when not much quantity is available for trading.

Consumption growth has been good in all markets evidenced by larger exports from Vietnam and Africa. Although Indian consumption in last quarter was not as good as expected, full year 2021 consumption was good – recovered from the lows of 2020.

Going forward, outlook for 2022 seems to be more of the same:

-       Supply is comfortable with no adverse news from any origin (so far).

-       Demand is expected to remain strong with continued emphasis on healthy foods aided by reasonable prices moving in a narrow range.

-       Covid and the challenges from uncertainty about its spread, intensity and impact are not going anywhere soon.

-       High Logistic costs and challenges are likely to continue for most of the year.

-       Processing in Africa will continue to increase with the investments made and being made in several countries. Importer interest is also increasing after seeing the better quality when compared with average Vietnam quality coupled with advantages of shorter supply chain (single origin, traceability, stronger process control) and diversification of supply source.

-       Price wise, there is nothing on the horizon pointing to any significant change in price range. But, there will certainly be periodic spikes and dips based on news (and rumours) and any specific developments (Covid and non-Covid !!)
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