The main focus over the past few days for UK dried fruit importers has been the continuing uncertainty caused by the Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK.
It is unfortunate that there does not seem to be a clear solution, but negotiations and uncertainty will probably continue for some time yet.
Most major UK manufacturers and retailers have already increased their stocks of raw material to take into account possible interruptions in supply and this has resulted in a significant increase in sales of Turkish vine fruits to the UK.
Exports to the UK have increased by over 6,000 tonnes this year, despite higher increase. Overall exports of Turkish sultanas and raisins have reached over 165,000 tonnes, a similar level to last year, although it is reported that sales to Asia and especially China have increased, following a reduction in demand for US raisins.
The principal difficulty over the past few days has been the lack of fruit being brought by farmers and stock-holders to the local Izmir bourse. Raw material prices have now reached around TRY11 per kilo (USD1.90/kg) for standard number 9 sultanas. There is a significant premium for light coloured fruit, as much of this year’s Turkish crop has been dried either as dark coloured sultanas or as Turkish raisins.
As an indication, specially cleaned type number 9 sultanas are quoted between USD2,300-2,350 per tonne fob Izmir with Turkish raisins at similar price levels or at a modest premium of between USD50-75/tonne on this figure.
Attention now turns to the new crop and so far, no serious issues have been reported, although colder weather is forecast for the next few days. The principal danger is a sudden frost when the vines have started to shoot, as this can kill the buds and reduce the tonnage of fruit available later in the year.
Last week saw a significant frost in the Malatya area, where most Turkish apricots are grown. This is likely to have caused some damage to the new crop, although it is too early to know with any certainty what effect this will have. Many packers and importers withdrew their offers of Turkish apricots and await developments. Prices of Turkish apricots have increased following the news, but it remains to be seen if this will be a temporary increase.
As reported last week there has been a softening in the cost of US Thompson seedless raisins as major packers seek to reduce their stocks of raw material and recover lost export sales. This has, in turn, resulted in lower prices from other origins such as South Africa and Chile. Indicative prices of US Select Thompson seedless raisins range between USD1.42-1.43 per pound c&f Felixstowe for shipments through until September.
Looking forward, the next few weeks should see a massive rise in sales of bakery products linked to Easter. These range from a whole variety of hot cross buns to the traditional Easter Simnel cakes. May also sees the start of Ramadan, which traditionally sees a big rise in demand for various dried fruits, including dates, figs and apricots and this in turn can lead to firmer prices for these lines.