Interview with Gerard Klijn – Founder and CEO of Trade & Development Holding BV (TDH)

The increase in transparency has connected farmers to end markets, resulting in improved farmer prices, food safety and reducing long-term price volatility.

What is the outlook for the cashew, pecan and macadamia tree nut markets?

Growth in tree nut consumption

For all tree nuts, consumption has grown year-on-year. Collectively, production has grown by 47% over the past 10 years with nearly all tree nuts being consumed in the same year they are grown. While the production of all major types of tree nut is expanding, almonds, walnuts, and cashews are outperforming in volume. So, for example, while macadamia production has grown substantially, it has moved from 2% to 1.3% of the proportional tree “nut basket”.

Market dynamics of tree nuts

This growth is driven by massive growth in the awareness of the health benefits of nuts, including their role as part of weight-loss diets over the past 10-15 years. At the same time, there has been an increase in consumption across countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. The African markets are still in the early stages of nut consumption growth, but the outlook is very positive. Importantly, the market dynamics for other nuts, such as peanuts, can vary significantly, as they have more in common with agricultural commodities. This is partly because they serve different markets, such as oil production.

Price and volume dynamics of tree nut market

Not only have volumes increased, but so have prices. This is partly due to the significant increase in demand in large markets, such as China and India. For example, in 2004, there were 400-600 million pounds of almonds sold in a price range of of $1,00-3,25/lb; today, there are over 2 billion pounds sold in a range of 3,50-5,00$/lb. This is largely to an active nut marketing effort, which has resulted in an active demand for a variety of tree nuts.

What are key elements of success for tree nut trading companies such as TDH?

Improving routes to market

One thing we have done since the inception of our company, TDH, is to try and connect farmers to markets. This includes improving the link between farmers, processors, roasting companies, and final buyers (e.g. supermarkets). We also think long term (>10-year horizon), even if general planning is done on a 5-year timeframe.

Improving transparency in tree nut value chain

When TDH started in 1993, there were a multitude of trading houses operating with a notable lack of transparency. For example, it was not uncommon for nut parcels to move through seven companies before they were roasted! Leading companies now focus on ‘direct sourcing’, where the supermarket (or other buyer) is connected to the farmer and many players are removed from the chain (or work as supply chain co-ordinators) and final buyers work for example with subcontractors for roasting, salting, packing, etc

Improved market stability for tree nuts

The increase in transparency has connected farmers to end markets, resulting in improved farmer prices, food safety and reducing long-term price volatility. Nevertheless, direct sourcing (shorter supply chains) can create short-term volatility when there are sudden spikes in consumption with too little product in the SPOT market or supply line.