30th December 2019 – Brexit Means Opportunity for Extra-European Dried Fruit Suppliers

Turkish/UK trade terms will remain unchanged for at least a year

The past year has seen good crops of dried fruits from both northern and southern hemisphere producing countries. Most UK dried fruit imports are currants, sultanas and raisins.

TURKEY REMAINS THE UK’S MAIN SUPPLIER FOR DRIED VINE FRUITS, FIGS AND APRICOTS

Imports of dried vine fruits continue to run at around 100,000 tonnes, which makes the UK one of the largest consumers per capita in the world.

Imports of dried tree fruits such as figs, dates, prunes, apricots and other tree fruits make up the balance and although sales are much smaller in terms of tonnage, they remain an important part of the UK dried fruit trade.

Dried fruits have long been considered a seasonal product, in large part due to the continuing popularity of items such as Christmas puddings, ‘mincemeat’ mince pies and a whole range of cakes and more recently, German Stollen. In reality, however the rise in snacking products has ensured that sales of dried fruits are now year-round and home baking, although still an important part, is only a fraction of the total trade.

The arrival of artisan bakeries in many high streets has also brought a range of new customers who appreciate different and premium dried vine and tree fruits. The good news for our industry is therefore that what was once a seasonal product is now regularly consumed throughout the year in a whole variety of products.

The result of the UK General Election should mean that the UK will finally quit the EU in 2020. This should give producers of dried fruits outside Europe the opportunity to supply products free from duty if suitable trade agreements are put in place.

Turkey remains the UK’s main supplier for dried vine fruits, figs and apricots. At present, all imports are duty free and this arrangement should continue for the next 12 months during the ‘transition’ period. The situation is less clear after this and the UK dried fruit industry will need to make its case for the duty-free status of dried fruits from Turkey to remain in place with a new bilateral trade agreement.

Prices of all types of dried vine fruits have remained steady. The slight increase with the value of sterling and no immediate changes in duty arrangements, should ensure that this continues for the foreseeable future. There are reports that the Turkish Grain Board may end its buying intervention for Turkish raisins and sultanas. This has caused prices of Turkish sultanas and raisins to ease a little. There has also been a slight drop in sales this year, compared with the same period last year and this may put further price pressure in the new year. This will be good news for those UK buyers who have not covered all their requirements of dried vine fruits for the coming year.

The ready availability of Greek currants and the lack of a significant increase in demand from UK buyers may also put pressure on the export price of Greek currants. Reports are that South Africa is likely to have an increased tonnage of currants this year. South African export prices will, however, need to be realistic as if sales are to compete with Greek currants. In the future, currant prices need to fall to be more in line with sultanas and raisins.

Turkish fig and apricot prices remain stable, as there is ample raw material to cover sales for the coming months. There are reports, however, that there are significant shortages this year of both organic and natural apricots. Medium sized sulphured apricots, such as type number four, are readily available, however.

Farmers in the Malatya growing area of Turkey are looking forward to the critical period in March and early April when the apricots trees start to blossom and there is a danger of frost. Any possible damage to the apricot crop is usually followed by a rise in price, so although prices of Turkish apricots are stable for the time being this is a market to watch carefully in the new year.

The coming year should be good for the UK dried fruit trade with ample global supplies and the opportunity to grow sales to both new and existing customers. The UK should also be well placed to take advantage of supplies from producing countries outside Europe once new trade agreements have been put in place and the recent agreement by the producing countries to support a global marketing campaign promises an exciting future.