Political tensions in the Middle East (West Asia) is major cause for the decline. Iran was a major consumer of nuts and so was Syria. Demand from China and India has also been lower than estimated. These new markets were helping the cashew industry grow when demand from the traditional markets declined, Pratap Nair of Vijayalakshmi Cashews, one of the oldest and largest cashew-exporting house, said. India is the worlds largest consumer of cashew nuts with trade estimates of consumption ranging from 170,000 - 190,000 tonne. It is also one of the largest processor and exporter of kernels.
Cashew lost significant market share in 2011 due to high prices and reduced availability. Prices of W 320 grade touched $ 4.50 per pound in 2011 but have declined to $ 3.20-3.30. Consumption of snack nuts actually fell by 11% in US during 2011 as against the annual growth of 2-3 %.
Buyers in the main importing regions of US and Europe are picking up any offers they see at the lower end of the current range. They do not seem to be willing to pay the 10-15 cents premium that shellers are asking for the forwards. This situation is likely to continue until there is some contracting with retailers, Pankaj Sampat of Samsons Trading said. In normal times, some people would be willing to take forward positions but the precarious global economic situation is making things difficult. Buyers do not want to pay premium for securing volume, as they do not know what they will be able to sell. Sellers do not want to sell forwards at lower end of the range because it is below cost and they do not see any prospect of decline in raw cashew, he added.
Pratap Nair feels that the market would stabilise at the current level as it has already bottomed out. Indian festival demand and Chinese New Year demand would help the market steady. Big retailers in US and Europe also buy forward in September for the year end consumption, he added. In the next few weeks, we will know the trend of Asian demand for the last quarter and we will probably get some idea of US and EU demand for the first half of next year. If activity picks up in this period, we could see the prices inch up a bit, Pankaj Sampat added.