12th April 2018 – Local Packers Continue to be Unable to Offer Greek Currants

Our correspondent in Patras Greece reports that available unsold stocks of Greek currants are now virtually exhausted with the largest packers only having a few tonnes remaining to sell. This is a major disappointment for the UK dried fruit industry who have traditionally been the largest customer for Greek currants. Although there are no longer any official government figures for the Greek currant crop, it seems that this year the total available tonnage for export was less that 15,000 tonnes. This is a tiny amount for a whole national industry, as this represents the tonnage of only a single American or Turkish vine fruit producer. The good news is that with the present warm weather in Greece, early estimates suggest that the 2018 crop will be larger at between 18,000-20,000 metric tonnes. It is however still too early to have an accurate forecast as much can happen between now and the harvest at the start of September. Price of Greek currants where available have increased to between Euros 2600- 2800 pmt FOB Piraeus. The reality is however that few packers are able to offer anything, so UK buyers will need to look elsewhere for their requirements of currants. Both South African and Australia produce currants but demand has been heavy, so availability will be limited.

Turkish sultana prices have remained stable at between US$1750-US$1800 pmt FOB for specially cleaned type no 9 quality. Unsold stocks of Turkish raisins are now very limited with virtually no remaining stocks of type no 7 and type no 8 sultanas which have in the past been used as a substitute for raisins because of their dark colour.

It seems likely therefore that there will be a continuing global shortage of raisins for the next few months until Turkey harvests their new crop of sultanas and raisins. Local farmers are expected to dry a higher percentage of fruit this year as raisins, so prices of Turkish raisins are likely to fall once the new crop becomes available.

Reports suggest that South African sultanas and raisins have sold well to date and some of the packers have now withdrawn their offers so that they can review their remaining stocks and potentially increase prices in line with the Californian equivalent. US raisin prices remain unchanged with good quality select Thompson Seedless raisins quoted between $1.7 – $1.8 cents per lb C&F Felixstowe. This represents an increase of more than 50% in cost in a matter of a few months and it remains to be seen whether major European buyers will continue to purchase US raisins in the same quantities. Buyers may also reduce the total quantity of dried vine fruits from all origins if prices become too expensive and may look to source other ingredients as an alternative.

Turkish fig prices remain high and this situation is likely to continue as the proximity of Ramadan approaches. Domestic demand for Turkish figs has increased over the past few years in parallel with a decrease in demand from Europe as local packers have more difficulties to comply with the ever- stricter regulations for the supply to the EU. Although it is too early to predict the tonnage of the 2018 Turkish fig crop, reports suggest that this will be 2-3 weeks earlier than usual due to the warmer weather. The lack of a really cold spell during the winter may increase the possibility of a higher percentage of pests which can cause damage to the fruit at harvest time. Prices remain unchanged with good quality natural no 6 figs quoted between US$5000-US$5250 pmt FOB Izmir.

The onset of warmer weather in the UK usually reduces demand for dried fruits except perhaps for their use in manufactured products such as cereals or biscuits and for use in seasonal salads or healthy mixes. The continuing high prices of dried fruit are likely to have an impact on sales, but it is to be hoped that the gradual increase in the value of Sterling against the US Dollar and the Euro will help to minimise this.