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The nut industry: a look at production and trade

dried apricots, prunes and nuts

Currently, the dried fruit industry it is valued at about US$ 10.2 billion, making it one of the main sectors of the agricultural market. Its importance lies in the fact that the food it produces is an invaluable source of protein, fiber and essential nutrients for human health.

According to data INC officials, between 2011 and 2022, the production and demand of nuts grew by 54%. This growth is surprising, especially if we take into account the limitations and problems caused by the pandemic and its impact on the agricultural sector.

However, like other productive sectors, the dried fruit industry faces several significant barriers and challenges. But, far from what was expected, these difficulties have not stopped the growth of the sector in size and importance worldwide.

Evolution of the dried fruit industry in recent years

During the last few years, the dried fruit industry It has been growing, due to the great variety of products that are consumed worldwide. By 2019, China was the world's largest nut producer, followed by the United States and Turkey, India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For the 2020-2021 season, exports of nuts had a large increase in relation to the previous season, reaching record figures for the market.

Currently, experts foresee that the world production of nuts in the 2022/2023 season reaches 5.4 million metric tons. This would be an increase of 6% of the total produced during the previous year, distributed as follows:

  • Nuts: 18%
  • Brazil nuts: 18%
  • Cashews: 8%
  • Hazelnuts: 7%
  • Pistachios and macadamias: 5%
  • Pecans: 3%

In addition, the INC expects almond production to be 1.6 million metric tons, while peanut production will amount to 47.8 million tons. This growth is mainly due to increased demand in the Chinese and Indian markets, thanks to innovation and e-commerce.

Global dried fruit production has been forecast to be 4% higher than in 2021/22, as global volumes of dried cranberries (16% higher), prunes (6%), dates and figs are expected to increase dried (5% each). ) and raisins, sultanas and currants (3%).

Main challenges facing the dried fruit industry

Although the dried fruit industry is in full growth, it faces a series of challenges that are present in the sector. However, despite the adversities, this industry has managed to scale beyond expectations year after year. I will briefly tell you what these challenges are and how they influence production.

Price volatility

Nut prices are highly volatile due to several factors, for example:

  1. Demand and supply: As with any product, the law of supply and demand plays an important role in the price of nuts. If there is a high demand for the nuts, but a limited supply, prices are likely to rise. On the other hand, if there is an abundant supply of nuts, but limited demand, prices are likely to drop.
  2. Changes in climate: Nuts are climate sensitive crops and can be affected by drought, flood, frost or any other natural disaster. These events can affect the amount of nuts available on the market and therefore affect prices.
  3. Supply chain issues: Nuts are often produced and traded internationally, so any supply chain issues, such as transportation delays or port issues, can affect the quantity of nuts. available and therefore affect prices.
  4. Government Policies: Government policies, such as tariffs or trade barriers, can affect trade in tree nuts and therefore affect prices.
  5. Other Economic Conditions: Other economic factors, such as inflation and interest rates, can also affect nut prices.

Oferta Vs Demanda

On the other hand, variations between supply and demand, added to exchange rates, greatly influence production costs.

This can make it difficult for manufacturing companies to plan and manage their long-term costs and profits.

Changes in consumer preferences

Boy eating cereal
Child eating cereals and nuts

Consumer preferences are changing rapidly around the world, with many looking for healthier and more sustainable options. Because of this, the dried fruit industry it must adapt and offer products that meet these expectations and needs of the market. Relevant cases on the contribution in health and sustainability we have:

  1. Dried plums: They are rich in nutrients and a good source of fiber, vitamin K, potassium and iron. They are low in calories: they are high in fiber and water, which makes them more filling than many other nuts. In addition, they have a low caloric density, which makes them suitable for those trying to control their weight.
  2. Walnuts: Nuts are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. In addition, its production tends to be less polluting than other nut options.
  3. Almonds: Almonds are also an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, and their production is usually less environmentally impactful than some other nuts.

Pasas, anacardos y granos

  1. Raisins: They are rich in nutrients, a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin K. In addition, they contain polyphenols, plant compounds that may have antioxidant properties. Beneficial for cardiovascular health: Some studies have suggested that consuming raisins on a regular basis may have benefits for cardiovascular health, such as lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure. They may also be beneficial for mental health, as they contain compounds that can help improve memory and protect the brain.
  2. Cashews: Cashews are a good option for those looking for a source of protein and healthy fats, and their production is usually less polluting than some other nuts.
  3. Grain: Grains like quinoa, amaranth, and pearl barley are great nut options for those looking for healthier, more sustainable options. These beans are rich in protein and essential nutrients, and their production is usually less environmentally impactful than some other nuts.

Quality control and food safety

Producers must adhere to strict food safety and quality standards to ensure that their products are safe and healthy for consumers. This may require significant investments in quality control and testing equipment and technology that impact production costs.

Environmental Protection

Another of the great challenges facing the industry is the protection of the environment and the reduction of its environmental impact. To achieve this, growers must include adopting sustainable farming practices and reducing the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Competencia global

The dried fruit industry it is highly competitive globally, with many companies trying to capture market share. To overcome this barrier, companies must be innovative and proactive if they want to stand out from their competitors.

Use of IT in the nut industry

IT systems are critical to the dried fruit industryas they provide accurate information on all aspects of the business. Thanks to these, all processes can be controlled, from production to distribution and sale of the final product.

However, the integration of different systems and sources of information can become a challenge for many companies in the sector. Often companies use a variety of different systems to manage different aspects of the business such as accounting, production, inventory, etc.

Integrating these systems efficiently and effectively can be tricky, requiring time and effort to synchronize and coordinate the data stored. In my article about Ten tips to avoid failure when implementing SAP I clarified the importance of approaching this class of systems as a comprehensive solution to order the company's critical data for timely decision making. Implementing this type of system to merely address accounting and financial aspects, in my opinion, is a waste of time, effort and money.

Good IT planning should include:

All of the above orchestrated in a harmonious symphony of scalable, robust and highly available information systems architecture.

On the other hand, companies must guarantee the security of this data, since it includes sensitive information from their customers and suppliers.

In order for this information to remain secure and protected against unauthorized access, information systems must be kept up to date. This can be a challenge for the industry, due to the investment, both monetary and time, that is required.

Use of agriculture 4.0 in the nut industry

The use of available technologies in agriculture has become a common practice, even in the dried fruit industry. Thanks to them, producers can improve their productivity by using their resources efficiently, increasing the profitability of their business.

In the case of companies producing nuts, the so-called agriculture 4.0 has gained prominence in recent years. One of the most used technology applications in this sector is precision agriculture.

Precision agriculture uses advanced technology, such as sensors, drones, and geographic information systems (GIS), to collect and analyze data about crops. These data, processed in real time, are used to make informed decisions and improve the efficiency and productivity of the plantations.

The year 2022 left us important innovations for agribusiness that you can review here.

In the dried fruit industry, precision agriculture is being used in various ways:

Climate and soil monitoring

Sensors and drones can collect data on soil temperature, humidity, and pH, as well as the amount of water available. This allows farmers to effectively decide when to water and fertilize plants and how to adapt their farming practices to actual climatic conditions.

Agricultural companies

Identification of pests and diseases

Monitoring and detection technology can help identify pests and diseases in nut plants early. This allows growers to take preventative measures to prevent them from spreading and affecting crops.

Inventory and distribution management

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to track and manage inventory and distribution of tree nuts. Thanks to this, companies can plan and optimize their supply chain and minimize food loss.

Improvement of the quality of the harvests

Precision agriculture can also help improve the quality of crops. The use of technology allows farmers to control and optimize the use of water and fertilizers, irrigation, sun exposure, etc.

How is artificial intelligence helping the nut industry?

Another widely used technology in dried fruit industry It's artificial intelligence. Its application in this sector of agriculture brings great benefits, since it allows, among other things, the following:

  • Crop monitoring and optimization
  • Identification of pests and diseases
  • Supply chain management
  • Improved product quality and much more.

These applications can help nut companies to increase their competitiveness and offer high quality products to their customers and consumers.

Which companies in the world are successfully using artificial intelligence in the production of nuts?

Determining which companies in the world are successfully using artificial intelligence in nut production can be a difficult task to achieve. This is mainly because many companies prefer not to publicly disclose this information, as they consider it essential to stay competitive.

However, here are some examples of companies that have used or are using AI in nut production:

John Deere

John Deere has used AI to develop drones and sensors that collect data on weather, soil, and crop growth. These data are used by farmers to make decisions and adapt their agricultural practices to real climate and soil conditions.

Syngenta

It is an agrochemical and seed company that uses AI to develop a system for monitoring and early detection of pests and diseases. This system uses machine learning techniques and image analysis to detect pests and diseases early.

In this way, farmers can take preventative measures to prevent diseases from spreading and affecting the harvest.

Unilever

This company has used AI to optimize the nut supply chain and minimize food loss. This is made possible by an AI platform that improves planning and logistics in the nut supply chain.

Nestlé

This company has used AI to improve the quality of the final dried fruit product by analyzing factors such as taste, texture and appearance. AI has also been used to optimize the production and processing of nuts, reducing costs and improving the efficiency of processes.

Main innovations in the dried fruit market in recent years

In the current macroeconomic environment, industries have to innovate and adapt to market conditions in order to stand out from the competition. In the case of the dried fruit industry, some of the innovations adopted in recent years are:

  • The use of precision agriculture in crop fields.
  • The adoption of sustainable and environmentally friendly production practices.
  • The increase in the variety of products offered to end consumers, including organic and ecological nuts.
  • The use of health and wellness campaigns that promote the consumption of nuts as part of a healthy diet.
  • The use of AI to optimize production processes and the supply chain.

These innovations have contributed to the evolution and growth of the dried fruit industry making it a giant within the agricultural industries worldwide.

Mirando un poco más allá

By 2030 it is expected that there will be an investment of USD11,000 Million in agricultural robots, by leaps and bounds, disruptive technologies flood the market making it increasingly accessible and at a better cost to automate processes, works and agricultural tasks. Many are already using or imitating Israeli technology that has shown excellent results in the field and in the processes.

The changing world scenario, new challenges and an increasingly competitive market must prompt us to act promptly to intelligently incorporate the abundant technology available in our fields, industries and people to face the future that has already arrived. Are you ready for action?

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