22nd February 2019 – Spring Weather Helps Drive UK Retail Sales

The last week has seen an increase in Easter bakery lines stocked by all the major UK retailers, which should bolster sales of dried vine fruits and other related products, such as cranberries and mixed peel.

Sales of hot cross buns have grown considerably in recent years with a plethora of different recipes and now even different sizes to fit all tastes. Sales of dried vine fruits are, however, steady rather than spectacular with reports are that new sales of Turkish sultanas and raisins are less than had been expected. It is possible that major UK buyers may have covered their forward requirements early and shipped larger than usual quantities as companies stockpile in anticipation of a possible interruption in supply when Brexit takes place at the end of March (unless it is delayed – Editor).

Prices of Turkish number 9 sultanas are unchanged at between USD2,300-2,350 per tonne fob Izmir. It seems unlikely that this price will change in the immediate future, although Turkey is due to hold government elections in March, which could have either a positive or negative effect on the value of the Turkish lira against the US dollar. If export demand for Turkish sultanas and raisins remains steady and there are no significant problems with the new crop there should, according to most industry experts, be just sufficient tonnage available to meet demand through until September when the new crop becomes available.

An interesting statistic is that the US is now a major importer of raisins, to supplement its own production for domestic demand. Significant volumes are being purchased from both Chile and Afghanistan. US raisin prices remain steady in dollar terms for the UK market at around USD1.46-USD1.48 per pound c&f Felixstowe for shipments of select US Thompson seedless raisins though until September. This price is unlikely to change with any variation being caused by changes in the value of sterling against the US dollar.

First new season South African prices should be available shortly, although local packers may be unwilling to set their final export prices until the bulk of the harvest has been completed. Reports last week suggested that there has been some damage following the rain, but it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the total tonnage this year.

Unsold stocks of good quality Turkish figs are now limited with an increase in domestic demand reported in the run-up to Ramadan. As an indication good quality natural no.5 or natural no.6 Turkish figs are being quoted between USD4,750-USD5,000/tonne fob Izmir. This is a high price and reflects the ongoing shortage of good quality raw material.

News from Greece is unchanged with very few new offers of Greek currants for the UK Easter season. Prices where offers can be found are between EUR2,900-3,100/tonne (USD3,290-3,520/tonne) fob Piraeus for good quality provincial fruit. It is to be hoped that this year’s crop will be better in both terms of tonnage, quality and price but unfortunately there are still six months to go before first new season shipments are likely to take place and it is unclear how buyers will manage during this period.