22nd June 2017 – Vine Fruit Supply Becoming Tighter

The last week has seen a gradual tightening in supply of vine fruits as producers look to improve the returns on their stocks of fruit.

This is particularly true for US raisins where there appears to be a consensus amongst packers and industry experts that the export price of Thompson seedless raisins must increase for the new crop, if there is likely to be a considerable rise in the field price, which is presently set at USD1,100 per short ton for raw material.

Shipments of US raisins remained strong through May, up 7% on the same period last year. The bunch count for the grapes is however, averaging only 29 as against 34 a year ago. The 10-year average being 37 bunches per vine.

The raisin bearing acreage is reported to be down at 154,427 tons for 2016 as against 168,420 tons a year ago and this reflects the continuing trend for farmers to reduce the amount of land devoted to raisin production in the US, following several years of poor returns.

Prices of select Californian Thompson seedless raisins are reported to have increased with offers, where available, at between USD0.92-0.95 per lb c&f Felixstowe.

Unsold stocks of the equivalent South African product are thought to be diminishing with prices of medium choice Thompson seedless raisins quoted between USD1,900-2,000 per tonne cif UK, depending on the seller concerned. This is now a favourable price compared with the US alternative.

The increase in the cost of US raisins may well open the door to an increase in the use of Turkish or Iranian raisins for the coming season, as although there may be a taste and quality difference, the Turkish equivalent is available at around USD1,600/tonne fob Izmir, with Iranian Gouchans at an even greater discount. The EU and some major users do however, have concerns about the possible high levels of ochratoxin A that may be present in fruit and next month will see increased surveillance by Port Health at the ports of entry into the EU.

Prices of Turkish sultanas and raisins have firmed over the past fortnight, due in part to a reduction in availability on the local bourse. There are however, reported to be considerable unsold stocks of vine fruits in Turkey, so the recent low prices seem set to continue for some time yet.

News from the US suggests that this year’s prune crop is estimated to be 105,000 tons which is a big increase on last year’s crop, where shipments have fallen to only 55,166 tons, which is an 11% reduction year-on-year. Prices of new season US prunes should therefore fall from this year’s high levels and further news is awaited.

This week the UK dried fruit industry has been saddened to hear the news of the death of two well respected figures.

Ken Galley, was for many years the managing director of Whitworths and a leading figure in the industry for over 40 years. He was a past chairman of the National Dried Fruit Association and was pleased to see both his children, Jocelyn and Nick follow him to work within the UK dried fruit trade. Galley helped build up Whitworths and was very influential in developing the UK retail trade and many of the quality standards the industry benefits from today and will be much missed by friends and family.

Eric Britt worked with his father in the City of London at Baker, Britt & Co. Ltd. He was the joint founder and chairman of Anchor Storage Ltd which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. He will be much missed by his family, friends and members of the trade.