Emergence of two-tier price structure
Attention is now firmly focused on the new season northern hemisphere dried fruit crops and the good news is that there are no reports of any serious problems. The Manisa sultana growing area in Turkey has experienced some rain, but this should not create serious problems as the harvest is still far away.
First new season prices have now been received from Turkey. More conservative producers and packers are offering at one price and less risk-adverse sellers are offering both sultanas and raisins at a considerable discount. There will be a modest carry-over of unsold fruit from the previous season, but the new crop of sultanas and raisins will be most important for most major UK buyers.
Early reports suggest that the Turkish harvest will be two to three weeks later than anticipated, with first shipments taking place at the end of August or early in September. Shipping time to the UK is around 10 days, so new season arrivals can be expected towards the middle of September. Prices of 2018 crop fruit remain a little higher than the new crop, with specially cleaned standard No. 9 sultanas quoted between USD2,100-2,200 per tonne fob Izmir. Prices of 2019 crop are quoted around USD2,000-2,050/tonne by some sellers, with Turkish seedless raisins at a premium of about USD100/tonne. There are, however, reports of offers between USD1,850-1,950/tonne for No. 9 sultanas by some exporters who may be hoping that prices will fall from today’s levels once the harvest has begun and a larger tonnage has been secured.
It is too early to have any real idea of the quality, but it is to be hoped that there will be a good spread this year with lighter coloured sultanas, such as No.10 sultanas available as well as the darker coloured type No. 7 and type No. 8. These are often used as a low-cost substitute for raisins and should represent good value this season.
UK importers have not generally received new prices for 2019 crop Greek currants, although if there is a larger crop this year, without weather problems, prices should fall back to more competitive levels. Unsold stock from the 2018 crop is now virtually non-existent and remains expensive, with prices of provincial ungraded currants quoted between EUR2,900-3,000/tonne (USD3,285-3,400/tonne), where stocks can be found.
The Turkish government body that provides crop estimates has this week released its first estimate for the size of this year’s Turkish apricot crop. This is expected to be 87,640 tonnes from Malatya with other areas such as Baskil, Elbistan and Gurun, bringing the total quantity to around 100,000 tonnes. Although there was little frost damage this year, there are reports of significant hail damage, which marks the skin of the fruit and produces a speckled effect on the fruit. Total export volumes for the 2018 crop of Turkish apricots have reached 91,500 tonnes, including diced and industrial apricots, which is a slightly larger figure than last year at 87,560 tonnes. Major buyers include the US at 9,885 tonnes, France with 6,895 tonnes, Germany at 5,750 tonnes and the UK with 4,915 tonnes.
California continues to market its US Thompson seedless raisins aggressively, with offers of good quality select raisins available between USD1.20-1.25 per pound c&f Felixstowe. Overall exports of US raisins have fallen to 43.5 million lbs, for the year to date: a massive reduction of over 20%. Exports in the first quarter of the year are better but are still down by almost 13% on the first quarter of 2018. It will undoubtedly take time for sales to traditional UK customers to recover, but it is to be hoped that this recovery will gradually take place, particularly if California continues with its successful marketing campaign.
The coming week should see buyers begin to make first new season purchases of dried vine fruits, but with almost three months still to go, much can change, depending on the weather and factors such as local elections in Turkey, which could have a big impact on commercial confidence and currency values.