As the Christmas season gets underway and festive foods such as Christmas puddings and traditional mince pies (little pastries filled with a mix of dried grapes, spices and sugar) return to our diet, it is a good time to examine the dried grape market, and look at what has been happening to raisins, sultanas and currants, key ingredients in some festive favourites.
Dried grapes are dried across the globe. The US, specifically California, is the largest producer of raisins, while Turkey is the largest producer of sultanas and Greece with a significant supplier of currants. The exact production figures for each are difficult to pinpoint as they are often confused with one another across international borders (and are also largely interchangeable).
World production of primary dried fruits is forecast to rise to 1.15m tonnes in 2012/13, the highest level in recent years, and is up 1.6% from last season. This is due to the good production seen in Turkey and China but some of this rise has been offset by a fall in from the US.
Throughout the year, the price of Californian raisins has remained firm, strengthening in recent weeks as weakened production fails to meet strengthening demand. Forecasts suggest production for 2012/13 will be down 10% on 2011/12 to just 0.30m tonnes.
Demand for raisins and other dried fruit in general has strengthened in the majority of markets, especially China, as consumption here was up 23% to 0.16m tonnes in 2011/12, with further gains expected for 2012/13.
The price of Greek currants has strengthened since the start of the year as concerns over the Greek economy continue. Throughout the year, buyers have been concerned that the economic problems in Greece could result in suppliers being unable to fulfil contracts, and many buyers are reportedly opting for short-term contracts whilst they look for alternatives to currants or alternative suppliers. However, recent price falls have been seen as suppliers have delivered their contracts.
Consequently, firm demand coupled with tightened supplies are expected to support the price of raisins and currants for the coming 2012/13 season, but the excellent supply of sultanas should act to restrain price rises, at least over the Christmas period.