28th June 2018 – Turkish Dried Grape Prices Still Firming on Concerns of Reduced Crop

The Turkish national elections last weekend saw the re-election of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This does not appear to have had a major effect on the Turkish currency which still appears relatively weak against the US dollar. This has helped to reduce prices for European buyers of Turkish dried fruits over the past months, even though the price of raw material has increased.

Exports of Turkish sultanas have reached about 230,000 tonnes; a very similar figure to the same period as last year. Prices on the local bourse, however, remain firm with type no 9 sultanas quoted around TRY7.00 (USD1.52) per kilo compared with just over TRY4.00/kg at the start of the season. This is a significant increase but, as reported, the weakness of the Turkish lira has in effect so far negated the impact of the increase for European buyers.

As an indication, good quality Turkish new crop type no 9 sultanas are today quoted between USD1,850-1,900/tonne fob, with better grades such type no 10 at a premium of about USD100/tonne on this figure. The important issue for some European buyers will be the availability of the lesser grades of Turkish sultanas, such as type no 8 and type no 7. These have been used in the past as a substitute for Turkish raisins due to their dark colour. This year, however, because the weather was good at the time of harvest there was a shortage of lower grade sultanas.

Early indications suggest that Turkish farmers are still likely to try to dry a larger percentage of their fruit as raisins to maximise their possible return due to the global shortage of Thompson seedless raisins. Recent hailstorms, however, have reduced the size of Turkey’s new sultana crop and the unseasonal hot weather is reported to have dried the skins of the grapes, which may also reduce the bunch count and so the overall tonnage. There is, therefore, a degree of nervousness and the expectation that prices of sultanas may increase from today’s levels.

Exports of Turkish apricots, up until the beginning of June, are reported to have reached around 88,000 tonnes. If the 2017 Turkish apricot crop was around 150,000 tonnes, taking into account domestic sales, this means that there will be around 40,000 tonnes of 2017 crop Turkish apricots carried over at the end of the season.

Local farmers in Malatya had been looking for possible frost damage to this year’s crop to prevent the build-up of too much unsold raw material. There has not been any significant damage to the apricot trees this year, although hailstorms have increased the percentage of hail-damaged fruit, which means that some of the fruit is blemished but is still usable.

Prices of Turkish apricots have started to fall back and although many packers are still waiting before offering new crop, some forward contracts have already been concluded. As an indication, new crop whole pitted no 4 apricots with an SO2 content of less than 2,000 ppm are quoted between USD3,250-3,350 per tonne fob Izmir, with larger sizes such as whole pitted type no 2 quoted between USD3,550-3,650/tonne fob. It is possible, if there is too much fruit this year, that prices will fall once the crop is safely harvested and the first shipments are under way. Buyers may therefore decide this year to wait and see further developments before contracting forward.

News from the Turkish fig growing areas is optimistic, with no major damage during the winter or spring. Some rain has fallen over the past few weeks, which may affect the trees in the low-lying areas. The harvest is expected to start two weeks earlier but, assuming that the quality of the low-lying figs will be reduced and the harvest for figs in the high mountainous areas is usually two weeks later, the harvest should take place during the second half of August with first new crop shipments expected in early September.

This year saw extremely high prices for raw material at over TRY20/kg. This had a knock-on effect for exports of Turkish dried figs which have only reached around 55,000 tonnes up until the beginning of June. A figure close to 77,000 tonnes had been expected, which may mean that there could be quantities of unsold figs still available for export. Prices have, therefore, started to reduce as it is possible that there will be a carry-over at the end of the season. This may also help reduce the price of new crop figs if the harvest is completed successfully in August.