15th February 2019 – South African Dried Vine Fruits Estimate Reduced By Reports of Rain

Heavy showers and thunderstorms may have damaged crops

The weather conditions around Uppington and the Orange River had been very good until the first week in February. Rain, however, was forecast and unfortunately there are now reports of some heavy showers and thunderstorms.

Although it is too early to determine the impact on both the quality of this year’s dried vine fruit crop and the tonnage, harvest time is the worst time to have rainfall as this can create major problems.

It had been expected that the size of this year’s South African vine fruit crop would be smaller than 2018 at an estimated 65,000 tonnes. The South African currant crop, which is grown around the Vredendal region, will be even smaller than last year’s and reflects the ongoing impact of the drought.

Aside from recent rainfall, many farmers had decided to dry their fruit as Thompson seedless raisins rather than golden raisins this year, since the returns for Thompsons have been particularly good. It is expected, therefore, that the tonnage of golden raisins will be significantly smaller and proportionately more expensive. Although the grapes are being cut for drying, less than 5% of the total crop has been gathered so far, so it is still early days.

News from Australia and Chile remains good with no notification of any serious rainfall so far and European buyers are eagerly awaiting southern hemisphere prices.

Prices of Turkish sultanas and raisins have stabilised over the past few days, with reports of little activity on the local Izmir bourse. Packers are, however, still purchasing fruit direct from the growers at relatively high prices with raw material for sultanas around TRY10.5 per kilo (USD2.00/kg).

What has affected export prices has been the dramatic change in the value of the Turkish lira since the start of the season when the rate was over TRY7.00 to the dollar whereas today’s rate is around TRY5.3. The fluctuation of sterling against the US, dollar principally on the back of ever-changing news about Brexit negotiations, is also having an impact on the cost of Turkish dried fruits.

Exports of both Turkish sultanas and raisins have reached around 137,000 tonnes up to February 9, compared with 140,265 tonnes for the same period last year. The average export price for Turkish sultanas is USD2,107/tonne fob Izmir. Although it is still too early to make any accurate predictions for the size of the 2019 Turkish sultana crop, weather conditions remain favourable with cold temperatures and good rainfall.

This means that the vines are dormant, which should encourage a better crop this year if there are no rain or frost problems later in the season. Indicative prices of Turkish no 9 sultanas remain unchanged around USD2,250–2,300/tonne fob Izmir for prompt shipment with a slight increase going forward.

News from Greece remains unchanged, although there are reports of some new offers of currants filtering through to UK buyers. Prices are very high with good quality provincial currants quoted between EUR2,900-3,100/tonne (USD3,280-3,500/tonne) fob Piraeus, depending on the seller concerned. Demand for Greek currants seems to have reduced in the UK following the lack of availability and high prices but may pick up as Easter approaches.

Exports of US raisins remain significantly lower than for the same period last year but, as reported previously, there seems to be a greater appetite from US producers to recover lost sales to the UK and other European markets. As an indication, good quality select grade US Thompson seedless raisins are being quoted between USD1.46–1.48/lb c&f Felixstowe for shipment through to September.