The dramatic increase in the value of sterling against the US dollar over the past week should be a welcome boost to an otherwise lacklustre period of sales during January.
It is a little unclear why the value of sterling has suddenly increased, but currency experts believe that this may be the result of a general feeling in the US that the value of the dollar is too high and a lower value will help stimulate exports.
Sterling has also increased against the euro although to a lesser extent.
Prices of Turkish vine fruits are unchanged in US dollar terms week on week with No. 9 sultanas quoted between USD1,700-1,800 per tonne fob Izmir. There will however be a reduction in sterling value, which is welcome news for UK buyers. Unsold stock of Turkish raisins are virtually nil, so prices remain high and this level will be the benchmark for other origins, such as South Africa, when its harvest is completed next month.
News from sources in Cape Town, South Africa, suggests that all the different local packers are waiting on each other before the announcement of the first new season prices. The crop of South African Thompson seedless raisin is expected to be good although some areas will produce less, following the earlier drought. Our earlier quoted price of USD2,150-2,250/tonne does now seem rather over optimistic, as based on current Californian prices and the lack of availability in Turkey a more realistic opening price level may be USD2,550-2,650/tonne cif Felixstowe for choice grade Thompson raisins. Golden raisins are likely to be at a premium USD500-600 on this figure depending on the available tonnage. UK buyers await news on the new crop and first prices, but it seems unlikely that these will be released for the next two to three weeks.
As reported last week there are very few new offers of Greek currants, which is something of a disaster for the Greek dried fruit industry. The UK continues to be the major buyer of currants which are used in biscuit manufacturing and a variety of Easter products such as hot cross buns and Simnel cakes.
Sales of hot cross buns have continued to increase with major bakeries introducing a whole range of new ingredients such as cranberries, apples and even chocolate! If Greece is unable to supply currants going forward, it is possible that this once proud industry may wither on the vine. Hopefully however a younger generation will have the enthusiasm to develop their industry building on the legacy of previous generations.