Exporters have expressed concern over growing prices of unshelled cashew nuts in the country, saying the situation will lead to cheap imports surging. As the harvest season is peaking this month, local prices of unprocessed cashews have leapt to a record high of US$1,000 a tonne, compared to the US$750-800 range last year.
The Vietnam Cashew Association (Vinacas) says unprocessed cashews were quoted at 16,000 dong a kilogram, or more than US$1,000 a tonne, in the former half of February, but after they were dried, the price would rise to US$1,200 a tonne.
Exporters cannot afford such a high price, says an official of Bimico, a cashew exporter in the southern province of Tay Ninh. “Exporters will be thrown into a difficult position (if prices stay high). Cashew buying is most active within three-months after the start of harvesting but processing takes place throughout the year, says the official.
Vu Thai Son, director of Thanh Son Co, a cashew broker, shares this view, saying it is more secure for exporters to buy unprocessed cashews for 12,000-14,000 dong a kilogram or US$800-900 a tonne.
Vinacas secretary general Nguyen Duc Thanh says the US$800-900 range is still high and risky for exporters, especially at a time when importers of cashew nuts remain reluctant to sign long-term contracts for fear of possible world price volatility.
Local cashew prices have grown steadily in recent years due mainly to high world cashew nut prices, a lack of local supply and the competition among processors to buy cashews at high prices to ensure sufficient stock for processing.
In stark contrast to the local market, unprocessed cashew import prices offered to Vietnamese processors are lower than local levels.
Son of Thanh Son Co says Nigerian cashew are quoted at US$600 a tonne plus a freight of about US$50 at on while the price of Indonesian cashew is from US$880 to US$890 a tonne, including transport costs to HCM City.
Vinacas chair Ho Ngoc Cam says unprocessed cashew output is estimated to rise to 370,000 tonnes this year from the 350,000 tonnes last year.
Stronger demand might force local processors to import 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes of unprocessed cashew from abroad, up from the 50,000 tonnes last year.
Last year saw the country exporting 100,000 tonnes of cashew nuts worth US$410 million, up 25% in volume and 40% in value on the previous year.
Vinacas expects this year’s cashew nut exports to fetch US$600-650 million thanks to rising world prices.