The continuing lack of offers of Greek currants has started to create supply issues for the UK dried fruit market as, although there are alternative producers such as South Africa and Australia, the difference in timing for the crop years means that fruit from these origins will not be available for three or four months.
It is unclear why Greece has such a shortage of currants this year. There were reports of bad weather at harvest time last August but some packers still believe that fruit remains in the hands of farmers and growers who are presumably looking at ever-higher prices to maximise their returns.
The total exportable quantity of Greek currants is thought to be around 15,000 tonnes this year which, although a smaller amount than usual, would have proved just sufficient to meet requirements. To date, however, only around 7,000 tonnes have been exported, so it will be difficult for this year’s crop to reach 15,000 tonnes. Prices remain extremely high with offers of good quality provincial currants between EUR2,800-2,900 (USD3,175-3,290) per tonne fob Piraeus for prompt shipment.
As reported last week, Turkish sultana prices appear to have stabilised for the time being with leading packers adopting a cautious approach to holding stocks of raw material due to the high local interest rates and the ever-increasing cost. As an indication, good quality ready to use Turkish no 9 sultanas are being quoted between USD2,100-2,200/tonne fob Izmir. The difference in cost between sultanas and raisins is this year much smaller, with Turkish Thompson seedless raisins quoted between USD2,300-2,400/tonne fob.
The US raisin market remains fluid, with some industry experts predicting that prices will reduce from today’s levels as the season progresses. In some ways, this is surprising, as this year the field price paid to growers has increased to USD2,150 per (short) ton. Export prices remain unchanged at USD1.5-1.52 per pound c&f Felixstowe. Although US prices of raisins for the UK market remain high, compared with the Turkish equivalent, there are reports that new sales have been made to both the UK and Germany.
Unsold stocks of good quality Turkish figs are limited, with exports reaching just over 21,000 tonnes up until the end of November. Prices remain extremely high for the larger sizes with, as an example, natural no 6 figs being quoted between USD5,000-5,200/tonne fob Izmir. Demand for Turkish dried figs usually weakens after Christmas but ,particular buyers do require shipments throughout the year. It may prove to be difficult for local packers to find sufficient quantities of good quality raw material to meet demand, so prices are unlikely to reduce.
The continuing debate in the UK over Brexit should come to a climax next week when the UK parliament votes on the proposed exit agreement. This debate continues to unsettle foreign exchange markets which necessarily then has an impact on the cost of imported materials. There is also the added complication of possible increases in duty, depending on the outcome of the negotiations, so it seems likely that a period of high prices and uncertainty will continue for some time.