31st August 2017 – Bayram Holiday in Turkey Falls Across Harvest Period

Global dried fruit markets have been quiet over the past week with one of the world’s largest producers, Turkey, in effect closed due to the extended religious holiday for Bayram. This year this falls between 25th August and 4th September. This is right in the middle of the harvest period which means that many packers are experiencing difficulties in finding workers to continue the harvest of both sultanas, raisins and dried figs.

The local Turkish Exporters Association has announced that the first shipment date for 2017 crop Turkish figs will be 11th October 2017. This date has been passed to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture for approval. It is later than usual due to the holiday period and will potentially cause some shipment difficulties as packers struggle to process and pack their first orders in a relatively short period of time. Prices of Turkish figs have remained firm despite the predicted larger crop this year as so far very limited quantities have been released by farmers to local packers for production. The holiday period has in effect, therefore, created two problems, one a delay in the harvest which means that there is potential for damage if there is any rain and second an increase in price due to the temporary shortage of raw material.

Dried figs continue to be an important product for Turkey with Turkish production accounting for over 50% of the world’s demand. The UK does have a seasonal demand for Christmas as well as a year-round requirement for ready to eat product but the tonnage imported is relatively modest compared to other European customers such as France and Germany. So far reports are that the quality this years crop remains good and with only one day’s rain no problems have been reported to date.

The harvest of Turkish sultanas and raisins is likely to be longer this year due to the interruption of the Bayram holiday and it is unlikely to be completed before the middle of September. The expected tonnage is 300,000 metric tonnes of sultanas and raisins with a carry-over from the previous year’s crop of 25,000 tonnes. This is a good size crop albeit a little smaller than the 2016 one and should be sufficient to meet export and domestic requirements over the coming year. Our correspondent in Izmir, reports that the Turkish government has established an agricultural credit union whose purpose is to buy and distribute sultanas throughout Turkey to local schools. It will also help maintain the price of raw material as there has been a general feeling throughout the Turkish industry that prices of vine fruits over the past 12 months have been too low.

Domestic demand for Turkish sultanas and raisins is thought to account for 40,000-50,000 tonnes with exports to date reaching 270,000 tonnes. The 2016 crop saw a ready market for Turkish raisins at the expense of Californian and South African raisins. Farmers were well rewarded, so this year it seems probable that a higher percentage of the Turkish crop will be dried as raisins which should mean that these are readily available at competitive prices. The downside may be the reduction in the availability of sultanas which could mean upward pressure on prices in the run up to December. As an indication first new season offers range between US$1450-US$1500 pmt FOB Izmir for specially cleaned type no 9 sultanas with a slightly smaller upcharge this year of between US$75-US$100 pmt for Turkish Thompson seedless raisins.

News from Iran suggests that Iranian vine fruit prices continue to mirror the price of Turkish fruit and although Iran is predicting a smaller sultana and raisin crop this year it is possible that there will be an increase in demand from European buyers if Turkish fruit continues to increase in price.

California continues to report favourable news for the new crop albeit that the tonnage is expected to be smaller. Prices of US raisins have remained steady in Dollar terms with prices of select Thompson seedless raisins quoted between US$0.98-US$1.00 per lb C&F Felixstowe for shipments through until October. The critical question for US raisins continues, as ever to be the level of this year’s field price for raw material. Early expectations suggest this will have a substantial uplift from last year which could in turn trigger a further increase in US raisin prices.