- Almonds, though
considered to be nuts are technically the seed of the fruit of the
almond tree, which is a medium-sized tree that bears fragrant pink and
white flowers. The fruit, botanically referred to as a drupe has an
outer hull and a hard shell with the seed inside.
- Almonds are commonly
sold shelled. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal
the seed. Almonds with their shells attached are called unshelled
almonds. Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated
with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal
the white embryo.
- Sweet almonds and
Bitter almonds are two forms of almonds, of which sweet almond is the
variety, which is consumed directly or indirectly by humans as a food
product. Bitter almond is slightly shorter and broader than sweet
almonds and are mainly used for extracting almond oil and not consumed
as food, as it is poisonous.
confectionary, bakery and snacking are the three major global
categories for almond usage.
- The annual global
Sweet almond production on shelled-basis has been in the range of 7 -
8.5 lakh tonnes in the recent years. Record crops and a steady
increase in production were seen from 2005-06 to 2008-09 (Almond crop
year is from August to July). However, the output in 2009-10 is
forecasted to dip on account of unfavourable climatic conditions.
- United States of
America is the single largest producer, consumer and exporter of Sweet
almonds, with the country contributing to over 80% of the global
- The state of
California in US is the most important producer of Sweet almonds, as
this region is reported to be accounting for 99% of the American
- Nonpareil is the
single largest variety planted in California. Its production is
reported to be 38% of the total output, followed by Carmel (12%),
Monterey (10%), Butte/Padre (9%) and Butte (8%).
- The world's largest
almond handler is the Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative, which is
located in Sacramento, California. Blue Diamond is owned by over
two-thirds of California growers and markets one-third of California's
- The other producing
countries are Australia, Turkey, Chile, European Union, China and India
with a production of 26,000 tonnes, 16,000, 9500, 79,800, 1,500 and
1,200 tonnes on a shelled basis in 2008-09. Spain is the single
largest producer in the European Union.
- The annual trade in
almonds has been around 4.6 lakh tonnes (on shelled basis) in the
recent years. The major exporters are US, Australia and Chile with
exports of 4,40,000 tonnes, 12,300 tonnes and 6,700 tonnes (on shelled
basis) in 2008-09. European Union, India, Japan, Canada and Turkey are
the major importers with imports of 2,00,000 tonnes, 45,000 tonnes,
21,000 tonnes, 19,000 tonnes and 14,000 tonnes in 2008-09.
- While, the peak
harvesting period of the Californian crop starts from mid-August and
extends till September that of Australian crop occurs between February
- The ever-expanding
middle class and increase in health awareness, has lead the growing
consumption of almond in the country in recent years. The annual rate
of increase in India's domestic consumption of almonds is reported to
be around 20%.
- More than 95% of
almonds consumed by Indians is imported with more than 80% of imports
being sourced from California. The other major country from which
India imports almonds is Australia. While, Indian imports in 2008-09
is reported to be above 45,000 tonnes, the imports in 2009-10 are
expected to rise to 50,000 tonnes.
- India has to resort
to imports to meet almost its entire requirements as domestic
production of sweet almonds is only around 1,200 tonnes. The other almond
trees present in the country are of non-descript variety and mostly
produce bitter almonds.
- India imports
almonds with shells and processes it domestically to obtain shelled
almonds, unlike almost all other importing nations, which import
shelled almonds. This is due to availability of cheap labour and
better appearance and lesser losses in manual shelling of almonds as
against mechanized shelling.
- Most of the manual
shelling of almonds in India is undertaken at Bombay and New Delhi,
from where the shelled almonds are transported to other consumption
- The Indian festival
season extending from September to December is the peak consumption
period for almonds, with maximum demand witnessed in November. Thus
heavy imports of new Californian almonds are seen from September to
meet the strong domestic demand during the festival season. Imports
from Australia pick up during April and May after the harvesting
season in that country.
Major Indian Trading Centres
Mumbai, New Delhi
Market Influencing Factors
- The domestic almond
prices are a reflection of global supply-demand fundamentals, with the
annual production at California being the most important price
- The Indian traders
keep a close track of the Californian crop progress with special focus
kept on forecasts by US agencies, weather, pest attacks etc. The
United States Department of Agriculture and the California Almond
Board makes progressive assessment of crops, stocks, global supply and
demand and releases regular reports, which are widely looked upon by
the global market to determine prices.
- Domestically, stock
present with traders and the cost at which it has been acquired is the
most important price influencing factor.
- The major importers
and traders of almond in India are well aware of the fundamentals of
the domestic market requirements and are usually well-stocked to meet
the annual festival demand.
- Meanwhile, as almond
is not considered as an essential commodity and there is no local
farming community producing this crop, policy intervention in this
commodity is very minimal.