The new report looks at the market for US-grown almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans, which has grown by more than 50% as a whole since 2006, at a compound rate of 8% per year.
The rapid increase in demand is partly due to increased global awareness of nuts’ health benefits, the report said. Nuts are known to be rich in healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, fiber and protein, and are thought to be beneficial for heart and cognitive health, among other functions.
The report’s author, assistant vice president and senior agricultural analyst with Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group in Fresno, Karen Halliburton Barber, said: “As the Chinese middle class grows, so will the demand for almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts. This is good news for growers here in the US…The Chinese government is promoting an economy that is favorable for many US exports, especially tree nuts.”
However, export growth has outpaced increased production, keeping prices high, and Rabobank said this is likely to remain a challenge for domestic food manufacturers that use tree nuts as an ingredient in their products.
And Chinese demand for high-quality tree nuts looks set to continue, the research firm said, with growth expected to “easily exceed” 15% by 2015.
“Rabobank expects that China will remain the largest growing export market, continuing to outpace domestic sales and to absorb growing US production,” it said. “…US processors will continue to be challenged by high tree nut prices and low-cost processing in China and other inexpensive labor markets.”