UK dried fruit importers report a relatively quiet week as buyers return to work from the extended holiday period.
Indications are that despite the reported dip in retail sales by some of the major UK supermarkets, demand for seasonal products which include dried fruit has been strong with record sales of mince pies and other products. This is good news for the industry although, as reported, available unsold stocks of dried vine fruits may be limited this year with considerable pressure on Turkey as the UK’s principal source of both sultanas and raisins.
The high price and lack of availability of Greek currants seems to have deterred major buyers and manufacturers from using currants as a mainstream ingredient and it can only be hoped that this year Greece and other producers of currants such as South Africa will have larger crops at more competitive prices.
Sources in Cape Town report that the weather in the Uppington growing area has been exceptionally hot and this may have caused some damage to the vines. However, South Africa is still predicting a good-sized vine fruit crop of between 65,000-70,000 tonnes and so far no significant rain has been reported. The Vredendal region which produces South African currants may not reach the record volumes harvested in 2017, but a good crop is still expected.
Californian raisin producers have started the new year on an optimistic note with offers of good quality Select Grade Thompson seedless raisins now between USD1.48-1.50 per lb c&f Felixstowe for shipments through until Easter and beyond. This is still a high price but is certainly an improvement and should help to increase demand for the premium quality US raisins for the European market.
The rapidly approaching date for the UK’s exit from the EU is undoubtedly causing significant concern both for UK importers as well as global dried fruit producers. Uncertainty in any commodity market creates difficulties and this is particularly the case this year when there are also potential shortages of raw material. Most UK companies have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude to Brexit but as the critical time approaches, there is growing nervousness as to whether shipments may be delayed and buyers will look to cover additional quantities at short notice to build up stocks here in the UK. There is also the continuing concern that sterling may weaken which will necessarily increase prices for all types of dried fruit for the UK buyer.