UK dried fruit importers have seen a slight upturn in business over the past few days as major buyers start to look at their requirements for dried tree and vine fruits for the coming year.
The main change of late has been the further weakening in the value of sterling against the US dollar, caused by continuing Brexit uncertainty and the recent announcement of the resignation of UK prime minister Theresa May. The UK has also seen an increase in the headline rate of inflation, caused by higher energy prices which could in theory trigger a future increase in interest rates. The value of sterling is an important part of the cost of any major commodity imported into the UK and dried fruits are no exception.
The good news is that the Mediterranean continues to enjoy favourable weather conditions and new season dried fruit crops in both Turkey and Greece are reported to be progressing well. Turkey has seen a significant increase in exports of dried vine fruits to China, with the local Aegean Exporters Association reporting sales of USD4.0 million between September 2018 and May 2019. On a value basis, this is a 120% rise. The UK, however, continues to rank as the number one destination for Turkish sultanas and raisins, with exports for the same period reaching a massive USD102 million. It is to be hoped, therefore, that Turkey will assist the UK with promotional activities over the coming year as well as looking for new markets elsewhere.
Prices of Turkish sultanas have eased back slightly with specially cleaned standard No. 9 sultanas of the 2018 crop, available between USD2,150-2,250 per tonne fob Izmir. Speculative offers of new crop are considerably less expensive at between USD1,950-2,000/tonne. First new season shipments will, however, not take place until the end of August or early September.
Unsold stocks of Greek currants are now very limited with prices unchanged (where offers can be found) at between EUR3,000-3,100 per tonne (USD3,350-3,460/tonne) fob Piraeus for good quality provincial fruit. This is a very high price and reflects the global shortage of currants.
Reports suggest that this year’s crop in Greece is progressing well and with fine weather may exceed 20,000 tonnes. This will be good news for the industry, but there is still some time to go before the harvest takes place in early September.
South African dried vine fruits remain a buying opportunity with choice grade Thompson seedless raisins quoted at USD2,550-2,650/tonne cif UK, depending on the seller. Unsold stocks of choice Orange River sultanas and Choice Golden raisins are limited with Goldens quoted between USD3,300-3,400 /tonne.
The Turkish fig crop is reported to be progressing well with the fig trees in the lower growing areas showing growth of around 9-10 cm per branch over the last month. The growth for the trees in the more mountainous areas is slower, with branch development between 6-5 cm per branch. Early reports suggest that this year’s harvest will be little later than anticipated, so first shipments may not take place until the end of September. Local demand remains high during the Ramadan period so unsold stocks of good quality fig suitable for exports are now very limited.