Prices of all types of dried fruits remain steady, with most major UK importers reporting a quieter than usual period for sales. In some ways, this is surprising as despite the major drop in the value of sterling following the UK’s Brexit vote last year, commodity prices have remained constant and even fallen where there have been larger than expected harvests.
This was certainly the case for Turkey this year which had a bumper crop of sultanas and raisins. The market opened at quite firm levels last August but prices quickly reduced and have remained weak until now. April is always regarded as an important month as there can be danger of frost or hail damage to the vines.
Despite the cold snap in the UK, no serious reports of damage have been reported from Turkey so even though the 2017 crop might be smaller in volume as the vines rest, there will still be significant quantities of sultanas and raisins for the export market. Most major manufacturers and importers now use Turkish sultanas and raisins as a major percentage of their dried vine fruit requirement. This means that the Turkish cost price is very important as a benchmark for other origins for the UK dried fruit industry.
Prices of Turkish sultanas remain quoted between USD1,200-1,250 per tonne fob Izmir for specially cleaned typed No. 9. The berry count is reported to be smaller this year than in an average season but this should not create major problems, except where customers stipulate a particular size. The difference in cost between Turkish sultanas and raisins remains between USSD100-150/tonne, but in some cases where buyers are able to purchase type No. 8 or No.7 sultanas, which are darker, the cost can actually be less.
News from Malatya is that there is expected to be an excellent Turkish apricot crop, forecast between 160,000-180,000 tonnes, provided there is no frost during May. This is a large tonnage and should mean that prices for the 2017 crop could fall by between 20-25% from today’s levels.
Exports of 2016 crop apricots have reached 70,000 tonnes by the end of April, with anticipated forward sales of a further 15,000 tonnes, which will leave a balance of 15,000-20,000 tonnes at the end of the season. Most of the remaining stocks are larger size apricots being graded between size 1 and size 4, so this year the smaller sized fruits are at a premium. The same will not be true of the 2017 crop, where it is likely that there will be more smaller size fruits and in consequence a premium for the larger sizes. As an indication, good quality whole pitted type No.4 apricots are quoted between USD2,400-2,600/tonne fob Izmir.
US raisin producers are predicting a smaller crop of Thompson seedless raisins. This is in part due to the reduction in acreage of raisin type grapes, but also to weather issues. Exports to the UK remain steady at just over 5,500 tonnes between August 1 2016-March 31, 2017. This is a relatively small tonnage compared with total UK vine fruit purchases. Prices of US raisins have firmed slightly with good quality Thompson seedless raisins available between USD0.88-0.90 per lb c&f Felixstowe.
There are reports of heavy rain in the Mildura area in Australia during the critical drying period. This has reduced this year’s crop of Australian sultanas and raisins by as much as 25% compared with last year, and prices in Australian dollar terms have increased. Australian sultanas and raisins still command a loyal following in the UK for those customers who appreciate the natural light colour and unique taste and flavour. It is expected that Australian fruit will be available for the UK market, albeit in slightly smaller quantities than in an average year, and further news is awaited.