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General news

Gradually firmness is returning to the pricing of many of our items now. For a variety of reasons, we believe markets are generally lifting from the bottom point. This does not mean they will all jump significantly, but certainly we do not expect significant declines.

Some of the reasons are fundamental, reduced plantings, increased demand. Others are due to escalating freight rates as demand picks up generally in developed economies.

Import regulations also add significantly now to some lines, in particular organic products and sesame.

As warm weather approaches the concern of infestation increases. We have decided to protect our organic range with sealed nitrogen gas covers. These will protect material from infestation. Goods will be delivered with the covers intact, so goods will be protected right up to use.

Pumpkinseed kernels

Despite a significantly increased new crop, where prices were starting to drift lower, a sudden jump in freight from China has pushed CFR/DDP prices upwards again. Generally, however shine skin supplies for 2025 delivery should be readily available, with a tightening in GWS supply.

As ever the challenge with pumpkin kernels is pesticide residues. At Unicorn we do pre shipment screening on every container prior to shipping from origin factories. We believe this controls the risk. It is important to know your supplier here. Pumpkin stocks can often be kept for in excess of twelve months, requiring treatment in warehouse as well as in the field to control pests. GWS grades are more susceptible for obvious reasons.

Linseed

The EU vote on imposing an escalating rate of duty on Russian linseed has impacted prices over the last few weeks. The vote should be ratified by end May, and whilst watered down from the original proposal, has impacted the market. So, EU/UK will focus on Kazakhstan material, along with Ukraine where the crop is expected to be bigger than 2023. Availability out of Ukraine will depend on the conflict and the impact on harvesting and supply chains.

Golden linseed stocks more or less exhausted until new crop availability in October 2024.

Sesame seed

Indian summer crop harvest has been fraught with problems. Firstly weather, sometimes upwards of 47C, other days unseasonal torrential rain. In addition, the ongoing election in India impacted market supplies.

Quality that has been collected is reasonable.

From Nigeria logistical issues more or less discount the continuous reliable supply. It is taking us in excess of 4 weeks to get containers simply through the port. It makes consistency of stock holding more or less impossible. Whilst competitively priced, if you can’t get it consistently the savings are eroded with carrying costs of finance & warehousing.

The Brazilian crop, grown mainly in Northern Brazil is being collected, it was not impacted by the floods experienced recently around Port Allegre thankfully. As usual this material will primarily be exported to Asian countries as natural sesame since pesticide levels will not meet EU/USA requirements. There is currently no hulled sesame from this region.

So overall the prices have stabilised on sesame and there is little to cause them to decline further for at least 6 months. We shall see.

Hulled Millet

Similar situation to last month, high stocks and availability keeps prices under pressure, and weakness of prices plus poor start to harvest in Ukraine indicates lower availability for 2024 harvest, but a significant carry over likely.

Access to stored goods is perhaps a growing concern as the war appears to be escalating, but this remains uncertain obviously.

Sunflower

The availability of sunflower kernels is tightening and price rises, which seem inevitable, are sluggish. At the farm level they are up 10% plus, but this is not being reflected fully in the final kernel price. Farmers are reluctant sellers, seeing the potential for increases. For sure several smaller processors are closing their production now, and as usual several larger processors are planning summer closures for maintenance prior to the new season. In previous years this has led to supply shortages over September/October.

One factor for keeping prices depressed is the loss of appetite by Chinas for kernels. We believe demand from this area has fallen significantly since 2023. The Chinese government is taking steps to develop the crop domestically, and also strengthen supplies from Russia which have a limited global market.

The new EU crops got off to a poot start, too dry and too hot summarises the situation. There is time for the harvest to recover, but lots of potential remains for a significant escalation in prices soon.

Poppy

Price and availability remain challenging this season as stated many times. Perhaps the only surprise is that prices did not go higher, but there is still time. The new Northern European harvest approaches. Some regions are certainly down on expected crops compared to normal seasons. Others are still uncertain, but it does not feel like there is going to be a surplus of poppy again for 2024/25 season.

Difficult to see prices drop too much currently, but if things develop as expected we should see some stability in the new crop period.

Quinoa

Demand has increased, stabilizing prices and removing any chance of further declines. The harvest quality is better than expected, increasing availability and this is true for both Peru and Bolivia.

Unlike other origins freight remains competitively priced. We see this lag in South American freight regularly. It takes some time for the impact of changing supply chain patterns to impact the region.

All in all, a good time to cover forward demand.

Chia

Strong demand in 2023 negated the impact of the big crop in Paraguay last season. This pattern continued into 2024 removing any chance of a carryover into this season’s harvest. Dryness in Paraguay has led to some replanting delaying the harvest which becomes susceptible to frost as a consequence. If this event occurs it could impact yields further.

India increased its harvest this year, and prices started competitive but have recently increased significantly. Combined with high freight the origin is noncompetitive for EU/UK markets again.

Currency update

The pound has started to pullback having hit two-month highs of $1.28 earlier this week as some support for the dollar countered the strong momentum for sterling stemming from a hawkish BoE. It is expected to reach 1.24 before year end.

Fed members voiced that interest rates will only be cut after multiple months of lower inflation, increasing the requirements for looser policy, and lifting the US dollar.

In the UK, election campaigning has started with strong expectations of a change in Government in July.

In the EU, a European Central bank rate cut is widely predicted for 6th June, whilst in Germany inflation rates have nudged upwards for the second consecutive month. This will be watched carefully as the EU strongest economy.

Elsewhere Chinese growth forecasts have been upgraded by the IMF from 4.6% to 5% due to a stronger start than expected to 2024. Driven more by export demand than domestic consumption which is still weak.

Get in touch

Frank Horan
Frank HoranDirector
Nikki Divers
Nikki DiversDirector
Jake Yerrell
Jake YerrellCommercial Manager
Vera Grosse-Drieling
Vera Grosse-DrielingCommercial Manager
Micaela Camantigue
Micaela CamantigueAccount Manager