These numbers are just incredible, the increase of prices is just wild. Seems its happening, the rise of the fastest growing middle class in the world now has the opportunity to buy healthier foods and have access to better foods than they once had which means soaring prices on demand by hundreds of millions of people in China. This is only going to get worse, and its not just limited to nuts as China gets stronger and wealthier. Food inflation is already here and is going to get even worse as the worldwide population starts to eat better and live better. Last updated: July 5, 2011 3:18 pm Prices soar as China goes nuts for cashews By Emiko Terazono in London and Leslie Hook in Beijing Chinaâs buying of raw materials may be slowing, but an appetite for healthier living among the countryâs fast-growing middle class has stoked demand for nuts, sending prices of cashews and other snacks to record levels. âChinese nut consumption is growing so fast, prices have rocketed during the last 12 months,â says Giles Hacking, managing director of London based nut trader CG Hacking and chairman of the International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation. Cashews, walnuts and pecans, for example, are at record highs, with cashew kernels trading at $4.55 a pound, up more than 60 per cent from a year ago. Walnuts in their shells have risen 43 per cent and pecan kernels are up 38 per cent. The Chinese have always enjoyed nuts as snacks but a growing awareness about their health benefits has contributed to the higher demand. Walnuts are considered to be good for the kidneys and the brain and recent news reports in China that pistachios prevent prostate cancer has triggered a rush for the nuts. Ma Wenfeng, an analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness, says: âAs Chinese people become richer and their living standards rise, they are consuming more diversified foods, including more nuts. Nuts are popular and have been attracting attention because they are rich in vitamin E, oils and proteins.â Chinese demand has started to affect food producers who use nuts in their products and will probably become more noticeable from the autumn, says Chuck Crain, who runs Crain Walnuts Shelling in California. In the case of walnuts, imports from California doubled from 42m pounds in 2009 to 98m last year. China, which used to be a net exporter, is now a net importer and producers have seen a near doubling in the price over the past three years. One well-known company has stopped promoting its walnut brownie mix, notes Mr Crain. With pecans, before 2007, âthe US shipped barely more than 1m pounds of pecans to China a yearâ, says Bruce Caris of Green Valley Pecan in Arizona. Then, in a year when the walnut crop was poor, the Chinese discovered pecans and account for more than 25 per cent of US exports. The rise of direct Chinese buying from growers has exacerbated price rises. But sharp price increases in one category of nuts will lead to Chinese importers and buyers switching to other types of nut, says Cheng Hung Kay of nut broker and processor CHK Trading in Hong Kong. Almonds, which are cheaper than most nuts, will probably take the place of cashews, for which prices have rocketed, he says. But on a per capita basis, Chinese consumption remains low compared with developed countries, so there is further room for growth, say nut exporters. âYou go to food festivals in China and a there are still a lot of people who donât even know what almonds are, so itâs encouraging,â says Warren Cohen, worldwide sales director of Californiaâs Blue Diamond Almonds China has become the biggest market for Californian almonds. Imports are up 30 per cent to date over last year, having risen 35 per cent the year before and 100 per cent the year before that. But prices have remained relatively stable due to strong growth in production and acreage increases.