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The price of pine nuts - Q's and A's

06/23/10

Why the price of pine nuts increased - the imported ones - and how to save $10 - $15 per pound

Yesterday, with the announcement of our pine nut sheller and American shelled pine nuts, we were slammed with telephone calls and orders. I wanted to post the common questions I was asked yesterday. Question: Why has the price of pine nuts gone up so so much in the last two weeks?

# 1 Supply
# 2 Demand

The role of pine nut species in the price hike and possible contribution to pine nut mouth

The handwritting for the summer pine nut price spike has been on the wall since October 2009. Summer is pesto season and the demand for pine nuts skyrockets as the basil ripens. When the basil starts coming in, the demand for pine nuts goes through the roof. Pine nuts like all of the American nut crops are harvested in the fall, but the peak pine nut consumption comes during the summer.

Most foodies know their pine nuts are coming from China. There was a poor harvest in 2009. The price of pine nuts FOB China was seen as high as 43,000.00 USD per Metric Ton. It had gone down to $37,000.00 per metric ton and much of the pricing depended on the pine nut species. The same pine nuts were $7,000.00 - 13,000.00 per metric ton a few years ago. Basically, the price per pound of pine nuts has tripled over the last few years.

The Siberian species sells for less than the Korean one. (Siberian pine nuts are very much like the New Mexico Pine Nut species). However, given the global demand - the Siberian pine nuts being much less expensive than the Korean ones - the cheaper pine nut supply was exhausted. Large importers order in advance of the harvest and place their contracts early. There are about a half of dozen global agro-businesses which import pine nuts. The agro business importers thought the price increase was too much and purchased less than they might normally, hoping the price would go down. Those importers ran out of pine nuts and had to restock at higher rates. The least expensive pine nuts were sold out, therefore in restocking the importers needed to reorder the higher priced species. That, coupled with the change in currency is spiking the cost of pine nuts.

There is another factor in increase in the pine nut price. There had be price supports for exporters of pine nuts. Those were withdrawn and exporting cost rose a good deal. There is more of an incentive for pine nut producers in China to offer their wares within the country rather than export. People in China love pine nuts as do people in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. I even had a call yesterday for pine nuts in South America. (Our phone rang off the hook yesterday - thus my motivation to answer some of the common questions about the pine nut market with the blog.)

As I see it, the rising cost of pine nuts ties into the pine nut mouth. There is such a huge demand for pine nuts, that I believe the harvests are starting too early. This in turn maybe contributing to the expanding problem of pine nut mouth. Additionally, non-traditional species of pine nuts may be mixed in with traditional ones. HOWEVER, the issue of pine nut mouth is a new problem and pine nuts have been around for 10,000 years. There is no recorded record of people having bitter tastes after consuming pine nuts over those milinum. People have gathered wild pine nuts as part of their diets for thousands of years, and the species they ate depended upon where they lived.

Watching all of these factors come together, helped Pinenut.com plan for a shelled American pine nut. Until the prices rose, it simply was not economically feasible. I love to being able to offer our clients American pine nuts for $10.00 per pound. We don't really want to be in the pine nut shelling business. That is where the American pine nut sheller comes in. (Yesterday, we took three orders for 2010 pine nut contracts with our free pine nut sheller.) Until August, we are only going to sell 25 one thousand pound contracts for pine nuts @ $10.00 per pound. I know I can get 25,000 lbs of pine nuts to fill the contracts, but I might not be able to get say, 50,000 lbs of pine nuts to fill the orders for 50 free pine nut shellers.

There are only a handful of pine nut harvesters in the United States for the Jumbo soft shell. There is a limit to how much each of the pickers can pick during our pine nut season AND because the harvest of pine nus is a wild harvest there 100s of factors which determine yield. It could freeze early, there could be a fire, the snows could come and the pickers would all go home. Having worked with wild American pine nuts for close to 15 years, we learned to expect the unexpected.

We reserved a portion of our 2009 pine nut harvest, specifically to work with shelling and are selling shelled American pine nuts. Yesterday, I had an onslaught of orders and it will take awhile to get caught up. We are selling the pine nuts in 5 lb bags, due to the amount of work it takes to cold pack and federal express the product. No wonder, I am up at 4 am.

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This blog is about my passion for a forest, The Great Basin Pinyon Pine Forest in Nevada. Its about how I express passion, through with talking about pine nuts. Tne nuts are forests and when you are eating the pinyon forest, you are helpling to protect it.
This blog and my work represents my life long love affair with forests and my commiment to protecting the blessing of creation. We also had a certified organic wild crop farm and we distill flowers and make other cool wild products. You will find them on our order page. pinenuts@pinenut.com or wild@wildcrops.com

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