Increase in Demand for Nuts, Seeds, and Spices in Europe and the US, Complications Persists in Exports from COVID-19

Published Apr 23, 2020
Demand has been increasing for nuts, seeds, and spices, expanding beyond the Asian and Middle Eastern markets to Europe and the US. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, sesame seeds in India and walnuts in Chile are experiencing difficulty in exports, while South African macadamia nuts will increase its exports due to a fall in global supplies. Vietnamese cinnamon, on the other hand, has no major irregularities.

Sesame Seeds - India

Indian Sesame Seeds in Season

In India, there are around 9 varieties of sesame seeds where harvest heavily depends on which part of the country the crop is grown in. While the harvest season for the Kharif crop is from September to November, sesame seeds are also planted from fall to spring and harvested from April to June as a summer crop under irrigated conditions in eastern and southern regions of India such as West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. There were no particular delays or changes in the harvest period for 2019/2020.

Harvest Estimates for 2020

In the 2020 harvest, the overall production volume is expected to remain low as unseasonal rains and storms had a negative effect on farming operations for sesame seeds. In 2019, there had been an increase in production areas from 132.4K ha in 2018 to 137.1 K ha in 2019 which led to a bumper harvest. The volume is expected to decline by 10% to 15%. The quality of the crops, however, is better this year compared to that of 2019.

Export Trends in Recent Years

56% of India’s production volume is exported to countries such as Greece, Germany, China, the US, and Indonesia. The export volume for sesame seeds in 2019/2020 was at 232K metric tons, a slight decline from 2018/2019 figures at 265K metric tons. There has also been a rise in international demand for sesame seeds in recent years due to increased awareness of the health benefits of the crops and a growing interest in Arabic style food dishes in European countries as well as increased demand from the Middle East.

Export Outlook for 2020

Prices fell by 5.4% in mid-to-late March to approximately USD 1.12 per kg in late March. However, labor shortages and increases in labor and transportation costs may also negate the downward pressure on prices. In addition, the nationwide lockdown has been extended until May 3, leaving disruptions in the supply chain as farmers are cut off from sending supplies to markets. Wholesale and export prices are expected to go up in the 2020 marketing season.

Macadamia Nuts - South Africa

South African Macadamia Nuts in Season

In South Africa, the harvest season for macadamia nuts begins in March and ends in July. The most popular variety is the Beaumont, A4, and 816. The Beaumont has high drought tolerance, while the A4 and 816 are prized for their high quality. Although the harvest has been disappointing in the previous year due to the drought at 58K tons of nut-in-shell (NIS), this year is expected to be more fruitful, with 64K tons (NIS).

Export and Price Outlook for 2020

The current export markets are the United States, China, and the European Union. Other emerging markets include South America, the Middle East, and other Asian countries. With the trade war between China and the US, China will likely have to look for alternative markets in order to fulfill its demand as its domestic supply has also fallen short. Australia has the benefit of having zero duties for its macadamia exports to China while South Africa holds 12% in duties. However, the massive wildfire in Australia has eradicated some of its crops, so South Africa is expected to supply more to the Chinese market this year.

Prices are expected to be stable, as macadamia nut demand has been decreasing since the outbreak. However, this has been offset by the fact that the global supply is lower in main-producing countries like Australia. 

Walnuts - Chile

The Season of Walnuts in Chile

Walnut season in Chile runs from mid-March to early May, opposite from countries in the northern hemisphere, giving Chile an advantage during their off-season. The most common varieties are the Chandler and Serr.

Harvest Estimates for 2019/2020

Due to persistent drought, Chile will face 10-15% lower production volumes than the previous year, with 135K tons. In certain areas such as the Metropolitan region, productivity is expected to fall by 15-20%, hurting overall harvest as it is one of the most productive areas, with 13,327 hectares.

(Top - Shelled Type, Bottom - In-shelled Type)

Export Trends in Recent Years

Walnuts account for most of Chile’s dry fruit exports, taking up a staggering number of 76% in 2019. With in-shell walnuts, exports are mainly headed towards Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Italy, and Morocco. On the other hand, shelled walnut exports are centered in Europe, to countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain. Exports to Europe have decreased overall from 2018/2019, with exceptions in countries like Spain which have increased exports for both in-shell and shelled types. Conversely, exports to the UAE have rapidly increased within the past few years, increasing by 75% from USD 25 million from January to September 2018 to USD 43.8 million during the same period in 2019.

Export Outlook for 2020

However, this trend is not likely to not sustain in this season, as the coronavirus outbreak has hit important markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) during Ramadan season, lowering the demand for walnuts. In February, exports have shrunk by 63% from the same period last year for in-shell walnuts with 996 metric tons.  

Cinnamon - Vietnam

Vietnamese Cinnamon in Season

Cinnamon is revered as a valuable spice as it has limited production capacity but is high in demand. Vietnam harvests cinnamon in 2 batches, one which starts from March to April, and the second which lasts from September to November. Cinnamon is widely grown in Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Thanh Hoa, and Quang Ngai provinces, with an estimated total production area of 150K ha.

Harvest Estimates for 2020

The annual average output of dried cinnamon bark is 20K metric tons, and the export volume of its leaves is 65K metric tons, with a value of USD 19.1 million and USD 5.5 million respectively. This year, farmers in Yen Bai have been expanding their production areas in anticipation of a large harvest. However, harvests turned out to be lower than expected in the first quarter of this season.

Export & Price Trends in 2020

Cinnamon’s popularity is attributed to the fact that it can be widely used for multiple purposes, including oils, beverages, and flour. The US, South Korea, and Turkey are leading export markets for non-crushed cinnamon, with exports of 1.37K tons, 2.16K tons, and 675 tons respectively. For crushed cinnamon, the US, Canada, and Germany lead the market, with 4K tons, 631 tons, and 322 tons respectively.

Prices of cinnamon have been increasing since 2018, with an average annual increase of USD 0.43 per kg. Prices of fresh cinnamon are USD 1.07 per kg, dried cinnamon at USD 2.35 per kg, and dried cinnamon leaves at USD 0.17 per kg. Compared to the beginning of the season last year, the price of cinnamon increased by approximately 30-50%. Prices for cinnamon have been on the rise as more consumers are starting to recognize its versatility, which can be used in food and medicine. 

The Graphs Indicate Export Volumes for HS Code 120740: Sesamum Seeds, whether or not broken, HS Code 080231: Walnuts, fresh or dried, in shell, HS Code 080232: Walnuts, fresh or dried, shelled


By clicking “Accept Cookies,” I agree to provide cookies for statistical and personalized preference purposes. To learn more about our cookies, please read our Privacy Policy.