16th December 2019 – UK Remains Top Buyer of Turkish Sultanas and Raisins

As the year draws to a close, buyers are beginning to look to cover their requirements of dried fruit through until the new crop next August.

Exports of Turkish sultanas and raisins have reached 89,000 tonnes, compared with 93,000 tonnes at the same period last year. This is a drop of 5% and perhaps reflects the higher prices this year or a general reduction in use. The good news, however, is that sales to the UK for the same period have increased to over 25,000 tonnes which keeps the UK as the largest export customer for Turkey.

Raw material prices in Turkey have remained stable, with the Turkish Grain Board continuing to offer farmers a price of TRY10 (USD1.72) per kilo. This is holding prices up and it remains to be seen whether this policy will continue in the new year.

The total Turkish vine fruit crop is thought to exceed 300,000 tonnes this year, so if sales continue at the present level, there is likely to be a significant quantity of fruit unsold at the end of the season. Another factor that has an impact on prices is the value of the Turkish lira against the US dollar. To date, this has been relatively stable and with the recent increase in sterling against the US dollar, prices have decreased for UK buyers. Good quality No.9 sultanas are quoted between USD 1,900-1,950 per tonne fob Izmir, with type No.10 sultanas at a premium of USD100 on this figure.

Sales of Turkish figs have reached around 22,000 tonnes, including retail figs, paste and diced and industrial quality. The total crop is likely to exceed 80,000 tonnes. Prices had been gradually reducing. However, recent reports suggest that farmers appear reluctant to sell their raw material and there has therefore been a slight increase in the cost. This increase has caught packers by surprise and it remains to be seen whether this is a temporary development. As an indication, good quality type No.6 natural figs are being quoted between USD4,650-4,750/tonne fob Izmir.

Sales of Greek currants have been steady. This year’s crop is of excellent quality, with a total availability of more than 22,000 tonnes. It is reported that the Greek Ministry of Agriculture has extended the date when growers need to pass their fruit to local packers to obtain the subsidy to January 10. The subsidy is based on the square metres each farmer has and is paid as long as farmers have gathered at least 150 kilos per1,000 sq. m.

Prices have eased a little with good quality provincial fruit quoted between EUR2,450-2,500 (USD2,714-2,769) per tonne fob Piraeus. The expectation is that prices could reduce further in the new year, although much depends on the price that packers will pay to local producers.

South Africa is expecting a much larger vine fruit crop of around 78,000 tonnes for 2020, despite a significant frost that occurred in the Upington growing area on the nights of October 29 and 30. This caused the temperature to drop to below -4°C in some places and caused some localised damage. South Africa is also likely to have a carry-over of Thompson Seedless raisins from this year`s crop, which will put downward pressure on new season prices. At present, Choice South African Thompson seedless raisins are available at prices around USD2,000/tonne cif UK.
The recent sultana and raisin producers conference which was held in Mildura, Australia, confirmed that there is ample tonnage of dried vine fruits to meet demand and that there is likely to be a surplus at the end of the season. The decision to launch an international marketing campaign to emphasise the health benefits of dried fruits is therefore a welcome development.

The UK remains one of the largest buyers of dried vine fruits and the improvement in both quality and availability has already resulted in increased demand for both Turkish and Greek fruit. The welcome news that both Australia and South Africa will seek to increase exports to Europe next year should give buyers and consumers greater choice and help to develop new customers and users.