A recent report detailing imports of dried grapes into the EU stated that total volume of imports in 2018 stood at 391,000 tonnes, worth USD791 million.
The UK, Germany and the Netherlands accounted for over 50% of total imports and in value terms more than 60%, with the UK at USD199 mln, Germany USD163 mln and the Netherlands USD109 mln. These figures demonstrate the continuing dominance of the UK as the largest buyer of dried vine fruits in Europe.
That said, sales to the UK have been relatively flat in recent years, with the major changes being a switch in origins from some of the more expensive producers, such as the US, to other cheaper suppliers such as Turkey and China.
At present, there appear to be ample global stocks of dried vine fruits to meet anticipated demand for the coming months so many UK buyers are adopting a wait and see position before committing to further large quantities.
The situation in Turkey is a little confused, with a relatively large sultanas and raisins crop of 325,000 tonnes this year and a reduction in demand, due in part to the higher selling prices and a general slowdown in trade. The continuing strength of the US dollar against the Turkish lira has helped reduce prices and this seems likely to continue.
At present, good quality Turkish No. 9 sultanas can be purchased between USD1,8501,900 per tonne fob Izmir. While this is a good price, some major importers believe that the market could fall further, particularly if there is no significant damage to the vines in March and April from early frost or other inclement weather.
Both South Africa and the US are predicted to have significant quantities of Thompson seedless raisins to sell this year, so it is likely to be a competitive market in the coming months, with attractive prices and the expectation of good quality products.
South Africa is experimenting with different varieties of grapes such as Selma Pete and Mervein, which should bring added interest to the market. Importers are awaiting news on the availability of South African dried tree fruits, which are still to be harvested and dried. Early reports suggest that this year’s crop of dried pears will be smaller both in tonnage and size.
This year’s crop estimate for Californian prunes was 105,000 (short) tons and, so far, it appears that the harvest will produce just over 90,000 tons. There was, however, a carry-over from the previous year of 70,000 tons. Unfortunately, the lack of rain in the orchards since March and April last year and unseasonably high north winds have affected the overall tonnage.
As both Chile and Argentina are predicted to have smaller than average 2020 prune crops there should be a good opportunity for US prunes. Prices are stable for the larger sizes but competitive for the small sizes such as 80 count. Prices are likely, therefore, to increase. California’s acreage for prune bearing trees is approximately 40,000 compared with 65,000 acres 10 years ago. This reflects the increase in demand for nuts against dried fruits, which is set to continue as these provide farmers with higher returns.
The situation is similar for the price of Turkish apricots. Prices started to increase after the new year as the blossoming period during March and April comes closer. Farmers in Malatya are already holding back their fruit, causing a reduction in supply. Prices of the small and large size fruits have begun to increase as most of the available quantities are type numbers 4,5 and 6. There is also a significant shortage of natural apricots this season and this can only result in higher prices and a lack of availability.