1st March 2019 – Australia and South Africa Both Report Fine Weather for their Dried Fruit Harvests

First new season prices are now being received from the major southern hemisphere dried fruit producers.

The good news is that South Africa is now reporting better weather conditions for the harvest following earlier reports of rain showers, although some damage was caused last November due to a heatwave.

Producers are confident that this year’s harvest will be very similar in size to the 2017/18 crop at approximately 65,000 tonnes of dried vine fruits. The difference is that there may be a larger percentage of Thompson seedless raisins this year, compared with Golden raisins and Orange River sultanas.

There is also an ongoing issue with the availability of South African currants where the vines are reported to be still recovering from the effects of the previous drought. This will reduce the available tonnage of currants by as much as 3,000 tonnes. As an indication, good quality new season choice South African Thompson seedless raisins are initially being offered at between USD2,900-3,000 per tonne cif UK. South African raisins are likely to be a popular alternative to US and Turkish raisins.

This year’s Australian total vine fruits crop will be similar in volume to the 2018 crop, at around 17,000 tonnes. The 2018 crop enjoyed strong growth of 30.7% over the previous season, with sultanas accounting for 48.4%, Sunmuscats at 16.3% and currants at 10.4%. Exports for 2018 reached 5,613 tonnes, an increase of over 50% from the previous year.

Adelaide is reported to have experienced record temperatures of 46.3°C this year and, although the weather is fine this year, the completion of this year’s harvest may be up to two weeks later than last year. Early indications suggest that this year’s prices of sultanas and raisins will be a little higher than last year, due to increased costs for the producers.

News from Californian suggests that prices of Thompson seedless raisins have continued to ease with some packers now offering below USD1.40 per pound c&f UK for select grade Thompson seedless raisins for shipment through until August.

It is likely that the price fall is due to packers selling raw material to generate cash flow because of the present RBA contracts, which call for payments for raw material in advance. It is unclear whether prices will fall further but there is certainly a need for US packers to try to recover some of their loss of export sales. The ready availability of Thompson seedless raisins from both South Africa and Chile should help to create a more stable global market for dried vine fruits and will be good news for European buyers, who have suffered significant increases in the cost of dried vine fruits over the past few months.

The Turkish dried vine fruit market remains stable with prices of both sultanas and raisins unchanged week on week with Turkish no 9 sultanas offered between USD2,200-2,300/tonne fob Izmir and Turkish raisins at a modest premium of USD100-USD150/tonne on this figure.

The position with currants remains confused, with some new offers of Greek currants reported at levels between EUR3,000-3,100/tonne (USD3,405-3,520/tonne) fob Piraeus for good quality provincial fruit. It seems unlikely that South Africa or Australia will have significant quantities of currants for export this year, in part due to a low yield in the case of South Africa and an increase in domestic demand in Australia.

UK buyers have received a welcome bonus following the news that the value of sterling has increased against the US dollar and the euro. It is of, course, difficult to know if this increase will be sustained long term due to the continuing vagaries of the Brexit negotiations.

This month also sees government elections in Turkey, which could have an impact on the value of the Turkish lira against the US dollar which will, in turn, affect the export prices of Turkish dried fruits.