29th November 2018 – UK Dried Fruit Industry Reports Buoyant Sales Despite Price Hikes and Brexit Uncertainty

This year has seen an uplift in sales of traditional products such as mince pies and an increase in the different types of Christmas puddings.

The close proximity to Christmas and the annual seasonal break in the UK means that major retailers are now selling their highest levels of dried fruits and products with dried fruit as a major ingredient.

LEADING SUPPLIER TO THE UK, TURKEY, HAS HAD PROBLEMS DUE TO THE VOLATILE LIRA

This is good news for the UK dried fruit industry, as raw material costs have continued to increase and some of these cost increases are now being passed on to both retailers and consumers.

Turkey remains the largest dried tree and vine fruit supplier to the UK, so earlier problems with the value of the Turkish currency have had a big impact on the export cost of dried fruits. Turkey, as an associate member of the EU, has long enjoyed duty-free access to the UK market and this has without doubt helped develop sales of both dried vine fruits and dried tree fruits, such as apricots and figs.

This arrangement may cease in March next year when Brexit takes place as, although there will probably be a transitional period for imports and sales to the EU itself, it is far from clear whether such an arrangement will extend to countries such as Turkey. Duty on dried vine fruits from third countries such as Australia or the USA is currently 2.4% of the CIF value at the time of import.

This uncertainty has encouraged UK buyers to commit to forward purchases earlier than usual and reports suggest that most major UK users have covered their requirements of dried vine fruits through until next August or September, or even further if importers have been willing to accept the risk. This has meant higher than anticipated sales of both Turkish raisins and sultanas.

Prices have reacted accordingly with a steady week on week increase. Turkish number 9 sultanas are being quoted between USD2,050-2,150 per tonne fob Izmir with Turkish raisins at a modest premium of only USD100-150 /tonne on this figure. This difference is less than usual and reflects the larger quantity of raisins in Turkey this year.

South Africa, Greece, the US

South Africa is predicted to have a bumper crop this year of over 65,000 tonnes. The critical drying period is not for another two months yet, so it is still too early to say whether this will have a major impact on global prices, but it is welcome news none the less.

The ongoing shortage of currants is causing problems for the UK baking industry and this is unlikely to improve in the short-term, as Greek packers continue to be unable to offer forward quantities. South Africa can produce upwards of 6,000 tonnes, but this year demand is likely to be heavy with most export markets looking for an allocation. Prices remain unchanged with good quality Greek provincial fruit quoted between EUR2,800-2,900/tonne (USD3,170-3,280/tonne) fob Piraeus.

Exports of US Thompson seedless raisins have seen a small increase, albeit from historically low levels. Prices of Select Thompson seedless raisins have fallen over the last weeks with new crop offers available between USD1.52-1.55 per pound c&f Felixstowe for prompt shipment. This is good news and it is to be hoped that major UK retailers will take advantage of the drop in price to continue to stock US raisins as a premium product.

Dried vine fruits have shown significant price increases over the past months and the continuing uncertainty with Brexit and its consequent impact on the value of sterling against both the US dollar and the euro mean that uncertainty will continue for some months yet. Prudent buyers are likely to have covered forward and to be holding larger inventories of raw material, but this is not always possible due to the impact on cashflow and other pressures such as storage limitations.