Heavy snow throughout Britain over the past week and the proximity to the Easter period has seen an increase in retail sales of all types of dried fruits. On Monday 26th February a number of national newspapers, The BBC and Sky News reported that shortages of raisins and currants were likely to create a significant increase in cost for the traditional hot cross buns which are a favourite for consumers at this time of year.

The hot cross bun is thought to have been created by a medieval monk from St. Albans and has been part of the national celebration for Easter holy week since the reign of Elizabeth I. Hot cross buns have traditionally contained a mix of currants, raisins and sultanas as well as mixed peel. More recently however modern chefs have added new ingredients such as cranberries, blueberries, apple, cinnamon and even chocolate chips. Hot cross buns been sold by most major retailers from the start of the year rather than just before Easter.

If therefore, there was a major shortage of dried vine fruits this could be said to be a national disaster. The reality however is that most manufacturers will have purchased their requirements of dried vine fruits some months ago and there is no shortage of hot cross buns this year.

Prices of dried vine fruits have increased over the past few months in part due to the decrease in this year’s Californian raisin crop and also the non-availability of Greek currants which are in effect now fully sold out. This may increase the price buns and similar products in store but again as much of the fruit should have been purchased some months ago, many retails are likely to be able to absorb the increase in cost for the time being.

Better than expected vine fruit crops from South Africa and Australia could help redress the balance. South Africa’s total crop is usually 50,000 tonnes of dried vine fruits and Australia’s somewhere between 15,000-20,000 tonnes. This compares to Turkey’s total crop of sultanas and raisins which this year exceeded 300,000 metric tonnes and the USA crop which with the carry-in from the previous year also exceeded 300,000 tonnes.

News from Turkey is that the dried fruit growing areas around Izmir have had the warmest and driest winter for many years. The last few days have seen some rain, which is good news for the thirsty vines. There is however a fear that if the temperatures drop significantly in the next few days there is a risk of frost. The last Turkish crop to be seriously damaged by frost was in April 2015 when over 30% of the expected tonnage was destroyed. Stockholders are therefore holding back some of their fruit which is causing a temporary shortage of raw material and a slight firming in Turkish raisin and sultana prices.

Turkish specially cleaned standard no 9 sultanas are still available between US$1750-US$1800 FOB Izmir and depending on the news concerning the new crop importers are hopeful that this price will continue unchanged for the foreseeable future.

Available unsold stocks of Greek currants in the UK are now becoming limited. Manufacturers and retailers will struggle with new contracts, with few available new offers before the new crop becomes available in September.

Sales of new season South African raisins and sultanas are reported to be brisk with European buyers looking to cover their forward requirements.

Our correspondent reports that there are ongoing issues with this years’ South African currant crop which is reported to have a higher than usual berry count, perhaps caused by the lack of water over the past months. Available tonnage for export is therefore expected to be much less than an average year.

Australia has reported new season prices for sultanas and raisins and our correspondent in Mildura reports that the harvest is now well underway being two weeks earlier than last year. Another 4-6 weeks of good dry weather is needed before the risk of any rain passes. First shipments of new crop fruit from Australia should begin in early April and will arrive in Europe 4-6 weeks later.