How the El Niño Caused a Shortage of Brazil Nuts

Over the past few years, there has been a shortage of Brazil nuts. Experts found out that the main reason is the drought caused by the El Niño.

The consequences of the El Niño changed the Brazil nut industry in a way that it’s difficult to overcome in the present day. The most significant changes are lower supply, decrease in production, and price increases.

How Does the El Nino Affect Brazil Nuts?

The temperature anomalies caused by the El Niño provoked a drought in the Amazon rainforest, which considerably impacted Brazil nut’s harvests.

The Brazil nuts of the 2017 harvest started developing exactly when the El Niño occurred, in late 2015. Keep in mind that it takes 15 months for the fruits (and the seeds inside) to develop fully. 

What exactly happens in such conditions?

The fruits (or pods) fall early from the Brazil nut tree, meaning that there are fewer developed seeds inside. In fact, there are many reports that a considerable amount of pods are empty.

To make things worse, since there aren’t many seeds, fewer of them germinate and turn into trees. This also compromises the future of this industry.

Which Countries Are the Most Affected?

The drought affected all the countries in the Amazon that produce Brazil nuts. But Bolivia and Brazil were the most affected.


The drought greatly impacted Bolivia, making the 2017 harvest particularly low. That makes sense if you consider that this is the biggest producer in the world. Approximately 75% of Brazil nuts come from Bolivia alone.

The harvests were so bad that some communities reported an 80% decrease. This led to a massive loss of income for many local families that depend on Brazil nuts for their livelihoods.


Brazil also had dramatic losses in 2017. The harvest average was 37% lower than the average of the previous ten years.

Brazil Nut Prices Skyrocketed, and Demand Decreased

The disastrous harvests that started in 2017 led to a significantly low supply, contributing to increased Brazil nut prices

Naturally, a fast rise in costs resulted in a continuous decrease in demand that still affects producers. Here’s an example that shows the problem isn’t entirely solved.

An example of recent years

Germany is a top player in the importing and exporting of Brazil nuts. For you to have a better idea, they are the second biggest exporter in the world, after Bolivia. If you consider that they don’t produce the nut, it’s pretty impressive. Any change in Germany’s imports will significantly impact the industry.

After comparing the import data from 2020 and 2021, Germany imported 6% fewer Brazil nuts. That may not seem very shocking at first sight. But if you consider that around 59% of those cuts were supposed to come from Brazil, it sounds much worse. Bolivia only had a 5% decrease in its exports to Germany.

This shows how much a single country is affected by this situation. And this is a single example; the problem is present on a global scale.

What Can Be Done to Revert Poor Harvests?

Researchers and producers are trying to implement strategies to bring back good harvests. One approach that is being discussed is cutting lianas (or vines) around Brazil nut trees. A study showed that the production of trees that had their lianas cut was 77% higher.

We hope that, with the right strategies in place, we can see an improvement in Brazil nut harvests in the upcoming years. This would benefit consumers and the families that depend on this industry for their livelihoods.