18th March 2019 – UK Dried Fruit Industry Awaits Decision on Brexit

The UK dried fruit market has faced the shock announcement that the UK has put together a whole new list of tariffs if no deal is reached between the UK and the EU.

The present position is clearly unsatisfactory for both importers and their customers as it is difficult to know whether there may be an interruption in imports or whether things will continue as at present.

The good news, however, is that southern hemisphere dried fruit producers have not reported any significant damage to the new crops, which should mean better than anticipated quantities of dried vine fruits and, hopefully, advantageous prices.

Information received suggests that the major South African packer has reduced its export price of Thompson seedless raisins, which should help to stimulate demand from both Europe and the US. As an indication, top quality choice SA Thompson seedless raisins are quoted between USD2,900-3,000 per tonne cif UK for shipments through until December and beyond.

The news is less clear for South African golden raisins where a smaller than usual crop is expected this year. Packers are therefore waiting for fruit to be fully dried and processed before releasing new season prices and these are expected to be higher than last season.

Although the Australian sultanas and raisins harvest is slightly later than usual this year, the first bunches have now been cut, allowing the fruit to dry on the vine. This is one of Australia’s great selling points as it means that the fruit is free from stones and other foreign bodies.

As previously reported, the total Australian vine fruit crop is expected to be between 17,000-18,000 tonnes this year, with most being sultanas. There should, however, be a modest quantity of Australian currants as well as the famous Lexia raisins. First new season prices have now been released and these show a modest increase but with an improved rate of exchange against sterling, prices are likely to remain broadly unchanged year-on-year.

Turkey continues to account for most UK dried fruit purchases and it is something of a surprise for buyers to learn that the total crop may only just be sufficient to meet export requirements. This has partly been caused by a smaller overall tonnage, and a much larger percentage of fruit was dried as raisins.
The coming weeks will be critical for the new crop of dried vine fruits as a serious frost or similar inclement weather could damage the vines while they are in bud and significantly reduce the available tonnage of sultanas and raisins for the coming year.

Turkey is due to hold government elections at the end of the month and, depending on the outcome, this could have a major effect on the value of the Turkish lira against the value of the US dollar. This would affect export prices. There is also the approach of Ramadan, which usually coincides with an increase in domestic demand for both dried vine fruits and particularly for dried tree fruits including apricots, figs and dates.

Unsold stocks of Turkish dried figs are very limited and prices broadly unchanged with, as an indication, Natural No.6 figs quoted between USD5,200-5,300/tonne fob Izmir.

The position with currants remains unchanged, with a lack of availability from Greece, South Africa and Australia. It is unclear what the future for sales of currants can be if global availability is not increased. Prices remain high. As an indication, Greek provincial currants are quoted between EUR2,900-3,100/tonne (USD3,280-3,510/tonne) fob Piraeus. Early indications suggest that the Greek new crop will be of usual tonnage and quality, but it is really too early to be certain.