2013 has been a significant year for the Australian almond industry. It has been highlighted by a large increase in tonnage, a return to high quality product, a 20% increase in domestic consumption, investments in processing facilities, improved global prices, a weaker A$, record export shipments and a significant jump in grower returns. There was also more good news from health studies on nuts which is helping to drive the continued strong growth in demand for almonds around the world. All of these things were positive for the industry. Some were beyond the control of industry to influence but the efforts of many working for the industry across the supply chain have been rewarded in 2013. This year’s production, that nearly reached 80,000 tonnes, was a record crop and the processors and marketers have met the challenge of selling this 60% increase in tonnage. By mid year, Australian product had returned to the shelves of major supermarkets who had switched to imported pasteurised product following our product safety issues with bacterial contamination. The installation of bacterial treatment equipment was a major step for the industry’s largest marketers to take and one that has reduced the risk to the product integrity of Australian almonds. In an attempt to eliminate the risk completely the ABA Board agreed to seek an amendment to the FSANZ Food Safety Standards to require all product sold in Australia to be treated. Not all events have been positive. There have been continuing delays to free trade agreements with major Asian countries that would remove the tariff disadvantages that reduce the returns from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets. Despite this, almonds are Australia’s leading horticultural export industry in 2013 with overseas sales in excess of $300 million. This figure should increase to above $350 million for the marketing year for almonds which runs from March 2013 to the end of February 2014. The Almond Conference was held at the end of October and was a great two days with an increase of 80 delegates over last year, and pleasingly 45 of these were growers. The wonderful co-operation of the Californian industry continued with John Slaughter, Bruce Lampinen and Roger Duncan making the journey to present at Conference and undertake field days in the producing regions following the event. The ABA Board also honoured two very worthy inductees into the Australian Almond Industry Hall Of Fame in Tony Read and Ben Robinson. I urge you to read their tribute profiles on page 14 and to recognise the contributions of these industry members towards making our industry much stronger. The Annual General Meeting of the ABA was held on the first morning of Conference at which an Amendment to the ABA Constitution was passed to rescind the Grower Director position for the Swan Region in WA and to increase the number of Marketer Directors from three to four. At its November meeting the Board extended an invitation for Laurence Van Driel of Select Harvests to join the Board until elections are held at the 2014 AGM.
The Board welcomes the new Grower Director for the Riverland, Peter Cavallaro who takes the Board position vacated by Tony Spiers. The Board’s thanks go to Tony who served as the Riverland Grower Director for three terms since from 2007 to 2013. Before
this, Tony was Secretary and then Chairman of the Riverland Region of the Australian Almond Growers Association. For the past 18 years, Tony has assisted Michelle Wirthensohn with the varietal breeding program and he will continue on as a member of the Plant Improvement Committee. 2013 has been a successful one for our industry and on behalf of the ABA Board, I would like to wish you all a prosperous new year and a rewarding harvest. Neale Bennett Chairman
The 30,000 tonne increase in production in 2013 has doubled the supply available for export which combined with the significant rise in the global price for almonds has led to the enormous jump in export earnings. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures as at the end of September show the tonnage of exports having increased by 43% but the value of that tonnage having increased by a staggering 112%. The growth in consumption in the domestic market has remained strong with the consumption figure in the first seven months of the 2013/14 marketing year showing a growth of 6.6% over the previous year. A further pleasing aspect of 2013 is the heavy crop hanging on the trees to be harvested in 2014. Early assessments show kernel size will be excellent which will be a major selling point as other global supplies are smaller in size than usual. With favourable weather through to harvest’s conclusion, the slightly larger 2014 crop should provide increased grower returns again next year if the price which has risen through 2013 remains high throughout the selling season and the Aussie dollar remains near or below US$0.90. Should this occur the farmgate value of the Australian industry will be closer to $600 million than this year’s estimated figure of $500 million. The above contains a lot of projections but should 2014 provide as many positives as 2013 the industry will again
be well placed entering a new year. On behalf of the ABA staff we wish all our members a joyful festive season and great year in 2014.