The attention of UK dried fruit importers is firmly fixed on the Turkish harvest which is now in full swing. The weather continues fine and the first grapes were cut late last week. The local Izmir bourse holds a ceremony for the arrival of the first new season sultanas and it is to be hoped that this year the smaller crop will be of excellent quality.
Total exports of Turkish sultanas from the 2016 crop have reached almost 260,000 tonnes. With domestic consumption added, this makes a total figure of between 310,000-315,000 tonnes. This year’s crop is expected to be around 300,000 tonnes with a carry-over of between 10,000-15,000 tonnes. This should therefore be sufficient to meet demand for the coming year, but prices have continued to firm, perhaps on the expectation that demand may exceed supply.
An unknown factor is the quantity of fruit that will be dried as raisins. In recent years, there has been a significant difference in cost between Turkish raisins and the more traditional Californian or South African alternatives. Leading UK manufacturers and retailers have taken full advantage of this cost difference, so sales of Californian raisins to the UK have reduced and those of Turkish raisins have increased.
Iran is also a leading producer of Bidonah raisins but this year reports suggest that the Iranian vine fruit crop will be less than expected. Prices are therefore quite firm and so far the cost differential has not proved to be large enough to encourage buyers to switch from Turkish to Iranian fruit. Turkish prices have increased in recent days and as an indication specially cleaned no 9 sultanas are being quoted between USD1,450-1,500 per tonne fob Izmir, with raisins at a premium of USD150-200/tonne.
Early reports suggest that there are serious quality issues with this year’s Turkish apricot crop. The size of the crop is much larger, so in theory prices should reduce significantly. The UK has seen shortages over the past week on the spot market as importers and traders wait for the first new crop deliveries at lower prices.
There are also early reports suggesting that the amounts of SO2 used on Turkish apricots may be higher than usual, as farmers seek to extend the life of their fruit in the expectation that prices will increase in the new year. Apricots have, for many years, been used as a kind of local currency with farmers holding stocks of raw material from one year to the next. Buyers may therefore need to take special care with the quality of the fruit and the SO2 level.
The total 2016 export volume for Turkish figshas reached 59,925 tonnes, including fig paste and diced figs, compared with 64,615 tonnes the previous year. France is the largest importer, with 8,230 tonnes followed by Germany at 7,270 tonnes, the US 6,760 tonnes and the UK at 3,000 tonnes.
The Aegean Exporters Association will be meeting on August 25 to discuss the market and hopefully agree the first shipment date for 2017 crop Turkish figs. First deliveries of raw material should be arriving with packers at the end of this week and so far, reports suggest that the quality is good, although there may be fewer larger size figs this year and an increase in the number of medium sized figs. Farmers and packers will be anxiously watching the weather over the coming few days as this is critical for the fig crop and indeed the Turkish sultana and raisin crops.