22nd March 2019 – Possibility of Frost Worries Turkish Apricot Growers

Dried fruit markets remain calm, despite the continued uncertainty in the UK with the future relationship with the EU.

International trade with Europe has been seamless for many years with a minimum of customs formalities and it is to be hoped that whatever the final agreement, this will continue in the future.

The value of sterling against the US dollar and the euro has remained steady over the past weeks despite the lack of an agreement, or even a clear plan or strategy for the future and this is reassuring news for UK importers.

The past week has seen the bi-annual International Food Event at ExCel in London and this year, as ever, was a good opportunity for buyers and sellers to meet to discuss present problems and future opportunities.

Turkish vine fruit prices have remained at previous levels with steady sales of both sultanas and raisins reported. As an indication, good quality Turkish number 9 sultanas are quoted between USD2,250-2,300 per tonne fob Izmir for shipments through until August and beyond. Turkish raisins are very similar in price, which is surprising as they usually command a premium of between USD100-150/tonne.

Prices in the UK for Turkish sultanas appear vary, perhaps because some importers are increasing their stocks in case of any difficulties with imports, but much will depend on the situation with the new crop and any frost damage that may occur in the coming weeks. At present, the weather in Turkey is fine and early expectations suggest a possible new season dried vine crop of between 300,000-320,000 tonnes, with a carry-over of between 15,000-20,000 tonnes.

The situation is less clear for Turkish apricots where exports of 2018 crop apricots have already reached 70,000 tonnes and are expected to exceed 100,000 tonnes. The 2018 Turkish apricot crop is thought to be around 100,000 tonnes with a carry-in of about 20,000 tonnes.

This means that there should be a carry-over at the end of the season of at least 10,000-15,000 tonnes. There are, however, predictions of sharp frosts in the Malatya growing areas over the next few days and farmers will be watching their orchards keenly for any damage to the trees which are already in blossom. This is true for the trees in the low-lying orchards, where the weather has been warmer and any frost could be catastrophic. Bloom on the trees in the more mountainous areas is likely to be up to two weeks later and any frost at this stage is likely to be less harmful.

In California, there is a feeling, that stocks of Thompson seedless raisins may be too high and export prices remain competitive as a result. Future crops are likely to be between 240,000-270,000 (short) tons until additional vines are planted to increase the acreage, but much will depend on the profitability of raisins for local farmers.

Prices of select US Thompsons have fallen to between USD1.42-USD1.43 per pound c&f. There is a rumour that the USDA may be in the market for a significant quantity of fruit and this would immediately firm prices. It is to be hoped therefore that European buyers will increase their orders for US raisins in the coming months.