Georgian nut farmers tell EastFruit that they are unpleasantly surprised by the level of walnut prices in the 2020/21 season. It would seem that due to the spring frosts in some regions of the country, a part of the walnut harvest was lost in 2020 so prices should have increased. However, this did not happen. Frosts affected intensive walnut orchards in Georgia, which are in the majority and grow one variety of walnut – the Chandler. Yet, our price monitoring generally shows that in mid-January 2021, the average prices for in-shell walnuts in Georgia were 14% lower than last year!
“There are good reasons for the price reduction for walnuts in Georgia. The Georgian walnut market is quite well integrated into the world market. Currently, on the world market, prices for walnuts are at historically low levels due to a record increase in the supply of quality walnuts from California in the United States especially due to a lack of growth in demand and even its decline,” explains Andriy Yarmak, an economist of the Investment Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Coincidentally, we wrote in detail last month about the problem of low prices for walnuts and almonds in the analytical review of the nut market for 2020.
The Georgian team of EastFruit also points to the fact of a decrease in domestic demand for walnuts in Georgia. This happened due to the closure of restaurants and the lack of tourists in the country in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, at the beginning of 2021, nothing has changed because there are still no tourists. Additionally, it was the HoReCa sector that provided a significant part of the demand for walnuts in Georgia as there are a lot of traditional Georgian dishes with walnuts on restaurant menus.
At the moment, the price for walnut kernels imported from Ukraine is 20-21 lari ($6.00-6.40) and local walnut kernels of the Chandler variety are sold slightly more expensive at 22-24 lari ($6.70-7.30). In-shell walnuts (mostly local) are sold at 5.5-6.0 lari/kg ($1.70-1.80/kg). In-shell Chandler walnuts are much more expensive at 8.5-9.0 lari ($2.60-2.70).
Considering the current prices for walnut kernels in California when ordering a wholesale consignment, Georgian entrepreneurs could import in-shell Chandler walnuts from the United States to Georgia, taking into account all costs, no more than US$2.00/kg.
Similar problems with walnut prices are occurring in Moldova as well. Like their Georgian colleagues, they were in no hurry to sell walnuts expecting an increase in prices for it. Unfortunately, now, in January 2021, prices for walnuts in Moldova did not increase and even began to decline sharply.
Official data on Georgian walnut production in 2020 has not yet been announced. However, production will most likely be lower than last year. In 2019, there was a sharp increase in the production of walnuts in Georgia. The gross yield of in-shell walnuts almost doubled compared to 2016 and amounted to 6,600 tons.
In 2020, walnut imports to Georgia fell to one of the lowest values in recent years from $4.1 million to $1.1 million. Thus, Georgia spent 3.3 times less on walnut imports in 2020 than on average for 2016-2019. However, one should take into account that the prices for nuts on the world market were lower and Georgia stopped importing in-shell walnuts altogether.
The main supplier of walnuts to Georgia in 2020 remained Ukraine, which accounted for about 83% of the supply of walnut kernels with approximately 10% from Uzbekistan and 7% from Kyrgyzstan. The average cost of imports of walnut kernels was about $4.00 per kg (CIF) for all three countries, which is roughly the same as the average price over the past three years. Imports from Ukraine, historically the main supplier of walnuts to Georgia, decreased four times compared to 2019.
Walnut exports from Georgia has quadrupled over the past two years compared to 2014-2018. However, exports in 2020 were only $1 million, which is 25% less than in 2019. As in the case of imports, mainly only the walnut kernels were exported. The main importers of walnuts from Georgia were Armenia at 66% with an average price of $5.22/kg (FOB) and the UAE at 31% with an average price of $8.00/kg.
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