As the Mediterranean basks in hot summer weather the next major event in the dried fruit calendar will be the harvest of the northern hemisphere dried fruit producing countries. Turkey is by far the most important source of vine fruits for the UK. Turkish sultanas and raisins are now widely used in both manufacturing and retail and account for more than two thirds of the UK’s total consumption.
This week has seen a two-day holiday throughout Turkey for Bayram which celebrates the end of Ramadan. Activity on the local Izmir bourse has been quieter than usual and prices of raw material remain stable although major importers continue to predict a slight upward trend in the market.
The harvest of Turkish sultanas and raisins and Greek currants usually begins in the middle of August but this year with extra hot weather this may come forward by a few days. The critical period remains when the fruit is drying in the open but if weather conditions remain favourable, Turkey is still predicting a good new crop of vine fruits. There should also be a carry-over of up to 50,000 metric tonnes from the 2016 crop so if sales continue at present levels there will be sufficient raw material to meet demand. Prices of specially cleaned standard no 9 sultanas are as an indication, being quoted between US$ 1200-1250 pmt FOB Izmir, with genuine Turkish Thompson seedless raisins at a premium of USD150 per metric tonne on this figure.
Estimates for the production of Turkish apricots from the whole of the Malatya growing region are around 168,000 metric tonnes. This will be one of the largest crops of apricots on record. Prices of Turkish apricots have however increased over the past few days as there are now very limited stocks of unsold raw material from the present crop. There are also concerns about the quality of the new crop with up to 25% of the total figure showing signs of speckling and hail damage. The size of the fruit is also smaller than usual so there will be larger quantities of size 6, 7 and 8 and industrial grade fruits and smaller quantities of size 5, 4, 3 and 2. This may well affect the price differential and further news is awaited.
Early reports suggest that this year’s Turkish fig crop will be of a similar size to last year and at present there are no quality issues. Again, as in the case of Turkish apricots there are very limited quantities of unsold raw material from the 2016 crop so the market for the new crop is likely to be quite expensive at the start of the season. Prices of Natural and Lerida figs have ranged between USD4250-USD5000 pmt FOB Izmir this year depending on the size and quality which is a high price for Turkish figs. Industrial quality figs and fig paste prices have remained more stable in price but if there is an increase in demand for Turkish figs from other markets such as the Russian Federation there may well be an increase in the price of smaller sized figs and industrial quality figs as well.
US raisin prices continue to firm as packers remain bullish for the future and farmers are expectant of a much higher field price for the 2017 crop of Californian fruit. Early reports suggest that the vineyards are looking well throughout the growing area of the California. A leading raisin grower Jerry Rebensdorf, who is also President of the Fresno Cooperative Raisin Growers states “we have hit the bottom of the market and are getting rid of the excess tonnage and vineyard acreage bringing supplies back in balance with demand”. This seems to confirm that higher raisin prices are on the way. Where offers of current crop Thompson seedless raisin can be found today prices have increased to between US$0.96-US$0.98 cents per lb. C&F Felixstowe.
Recent comments by the Governor of the Bank of England suggesting that the period of low interest rates in the UK may be finally coming to an end has helped to strengthen the value of Sterling against both the Dollar and Euro. This will certainly help the hard-pressed UK dried fruit industry which has seen an almost 15% decline in the value of the local currency since the Brexit referendum.