24th February 2020 – UK Importers Report Steady Demand for Dried Vine Fruits Despite Uncertainty Caused by Coronavirus

The period directly after the New Year can be a quieter time for the UK dried fruit industry.

In recent years, however, the end of the Christmas season is quickly followed in major retailers by the launch of a range of products for Easter including Hot Cross buns. These have grown in popularity with a wide variety of pack sizes and different ingredients, not all of which follow the traditional dried fruit recipes.

Prices of Turkish dried vine fruits have continued to weaken with the US dollar gaining value against the Turkish lira. This has now reached a level of over TRY6.00 per US dollar which helps reduce the export price of Turkish dried fruits. As an indication good quality ready to use Turkish No.9 sultanas are being quoted between USD1,800-1,850 per tonne fob Izmir for shipment through until September. The difference in price between Turkish sultanas and raisins has, however, increased as there has been stronger demand for Turkish raisins. As an indication Turkish select raisins are being quoted between USD2,050-2,100/tonne fob Izmir for shipment as above.

The next important time for the Turkish dried vine fruit crop will be towards the end of March or early April when the vines begin to show their first buds and leaf development. Extreme cold weather or frost can cause significant damage and this could then effect the size and tonnage of the new crop. Although the weather in Turkey has been cold over the past week, there have not so far been any reported problems.

News from South Africa continues to suggest that this year should see one of the largest dried vine fruit crops on record. As reported previously, South Africa is looking to increase sales of dried fruit to the UK and this will be boosted by a marketing campaign aimed at trade buyers. First new crop shipments should take place next month and there is expected to be ample tonnage of Thompson seedless raisins and Golden raisins. Price indications are USD1,950-2,000/tonne cif UK for choice medium Thompson seedless raisins and USD3,000-3,050/tonne for choice Golden medium raisins.

South Africa is also expected to produce a much larger crop of currants this year. South African currants have a slightly different texture and a smaller berry size then equivalent Greek fruit but have a high standard of cleaning so should prove popular for the European market.

Sales of Greek currants have been steady over the past few weeks with prices remaining firm, despite the the significant tonnage of fruit still to be sold. Local farmers should receive their final subsidies from the EU towards the end of this month, so any unsold quantities are likely to be held either by the major Union or the few remaining private packers.

As an indication, good quality provincial currants are being quoted between EUR2,800-2,900 (USD3,036-3,144) per tonne fob Piraeus. If demand continues at the present rate, it seems likely that that there will be a significant amount of fruit unsold at the end of the season. It would therefore be a sensible moment for Greece to launch a marketing campaign to help increase sales to both European and other worldwide customers.

US raisin prices are also competitive with offers for select US Thompson seedless raisins between USD1.00-1.05 per pound c&f Felixstowe for shipments through until September. This compares favourably with South African raisin prices but is still a little more expensive than the Turkish and Chinese equivalent.

Early news from Chile suggests that this year’s crop of flame raisins is likely to be much less this year due to local farmers switching to other grape varieties. Chilean Flame raisins have proved to be very popular in the UK for snacking or mixing with other ingredients. There may, therefore, be an opportunity for other origins to supply a similar product if there is a shortfall in the coming months.