The continuing vacillation over the Brexit negotiations in the UK is beginning to have an impact on all elements of the UK food industry.
Manufacturers and retailers generally plan their requirements of raw material and finished product months in advance, so it is of paramount importance for importers and traders to be able to know what is happening or what is intended as all dried fruits are imported into the UK from countries either in the EU or from elsewhere in the world.
The ongoing political discussions are also having an effect on the day to day value of sterling against the US dollar and euro. As reported previously, sterling has to date maintained its position, but this may not be true if a hard Brexit takes place at the end of March.
Turkish dried vine fruit prices have continued to advance over the past few days as local packers seek to cover their requirements for forward contracts on a rising market. Turkey is due to hold national elections in March which are likely to have an impact on the value of the Turkish lira and this in itself is creating uncertainty. As an indication good quality type No. 9 sultanas have increased to between USD2,300-2,350 per tonne fob Izmir, with better grades such as standard No. 10 at a premium of USD100-150/tonne on this figure. The differential in price of Turkish sultanas and Turkish raisins remains smaller than usual in an average year due to the continued ready availability of dark colour fruit.
News from the southern hemisphere producing countries continues to be good with no reports of any rainfall. Australia has however had extremely hot temperatures which are likely to delay the harvest by at least two weeks.
Our source in Mildura, Australia, also reports that this year the cost of extracting water from the Murray River for irrigation has increased by AUD400-500 (USD289-362) per tonne compared with AUD100/tonne the previous year. This is likely to have an upward impact on the cost of new season fruit. The good news however is that the quality of Australian sultanas and currants is expected to be good and European buyers look forward to receiving new season shipments in April/May.
The continuing shortage of offers of Greek currants is causing problems for UK manufacturers who have traditionally used currants as an ingredient for products such as hot cross buns and mincemeat as well as for speciality products such as Garibaldi biscuits.
Prices of Greek currants remain unchanged at between EUR2,800-3,000 (USD3,206-3,435) per tonne fob Piraeus where offers can be found. It is to be hoped however that once the new season vines have budded, there may be an indication of a larger crop of Greek currants this year and a consequent reduction in price.
The industry was saddened to hear of the recent death of Theo Sarmas, who had spent a lifetime involved in the procurement of both Greek and Turkish dried vine fruits and who represents one of the last of his generation with over 50 years in the trade.