Prices of Turkish sultanas and raisins have continued to firm over the last few days as local farmers hold back their remaining stocks of raw material in the hope of forcing up prices from very low levels.
Demand in the UK is traditionally slow at this time of the year as most retail and manufacturing customers will have covered their requirements for dried vine fruits through until new crop or December and beyond. This year, this may have been a wise move, as unsold stocks of Greek currants are now very scarce and Californian raisin prices have increased significantly over the past few weeks. If Turkey follows this trend there will be an overall increase in the cost of dried vine fruits for the coming year.
The total Turkish volume for 2016, including the carry-over from the 2015 crop is about 355,000 tonnes. Exports to date have reached 230,583 tonnes as at July 1, compared with 172,905 tonnes for the same period last year. There is no doubt that the low price this year has helped stimulate demand for Turkish raisins and sultanas. Domestic sales in Turkey, demand from the local alcohol industry and the local school project should use another 50,000-60,000 tonnes, leaving an unsold balance of between 25,000-30,000 tonnes to be added to the new crop.
This year, the Turkish new crop is forecast to be around 280,000 tonnes, which should be sufficient to meet export demand with the carry-over from the 2016 crop. The recent hot weather in Turkey may, however, have scorched some of the vines, causing a reduction in the quantity available and we still have not reached the critical period when the fruit dries in the open. It does seem likely, therefore, that new season prices will continue to increase. As an indication, good quality specially cleaned No. 9 sultanas are today being quoted between USD1,300–1,350 per tonne fob Izmir, with Turkish Thompson seedless raisins between USD1,500-1,600/tonne fob.
Uncertainty continues with the Greek currant crop, with virtually all packers now closed for the summer. Available unsold stocks of currants are limited but so far, UK importers have not reported any significant problems from customers. This suggests that demand for currants has continued to reduce, in part due to the high price but also due to continuous problems in availability.
So far, weather conditions have been perfect for the new crop of currants and if opening prices remain high it is to be hoped that local farmers will dry a larger percentage of fruit as currants rather than sell the grapes as fresh or to the local wine industry. Prices of good quality provincial fruit are, as an indication being quoted between EUR1,800–1,900/tonne (USD2,040-2,155/tonne) fob Piraeus. The reality is, though, that there are very few offers and this high price may be hypothetical.
Turkey continues to predict a bumper apricot crop this year, although the overall quality will not be as good as usual. The price difference between extra class, class 1 and industrial will therefore be much bigger than usual. First shipments should be available from mid-August and although the official estimate for Malatya dried apricots was 142,000 tonnes, the general expectation is that the size of this year’s crop will now reach 160,000 tonnes, from which 10,000-15,000 tonnes will be dried as natural apricots. The harvest begins with the trees being shaken, either by machinery or by hand and the fresh fruit collected from plastic sheets underneath the trees. The apricots are then spread out on plastic sheets to dry in the open, which usually takes between two to three days. They then become soft enough for pitting, which is mainly carried out by hand. Natural apricots continue to remain under the sun for a few more days while conventional SO2 dried apricots are stored in tents ready for the SO2 to be applied.