Will it be Brexit, the Beast from the East, nerve gas poisoning, or Donald Trump?
No, what we are currently facing is a global shortage of currants, raisins and sultanas. This dried fruit crisis is not short term.
The dried fruit crisis is raising concern around the world and especially in the UK. All are concerned about the ready availability of this foodstuff in the future.
Britain is the world’s biggest importer of dried fruit. Since September last year, the price of raisins and sultanas has seen an exponential rise of up to 42%. Consider what the impact could be on hot cross buns and Christmas puddings.
One a Penny…?
There are a number of factors that have contributed to this price increase. Falling numbers of raisins in California and the reduction by Greek farmers in producing currants are the main culprits.
According to the BBC, California produces most of the raisins destined for the UK. But farmers in the region have decided that there are more lucrative crops than dried fruit. The forecast is for 275,000 tonnes of raisins to be produced in 2017-18 in California. This is an 8% reduction from the previous year and 15% below the five-year average. Also, land and labour costs have risen in the USA.
Turkey and Greece have become the go-to places. But Greece’s declining production is now forcing buyers to seek out other markets, notably Australia and South Africa.
Unfortunately, Australia’s harvesting of the sultana crop seems to be running slow due to an unprecedented heatwave. The good news is that Turkey is still producing large amounts of dried fruit.
The industry itself is reassuring worried fans of hot cross buns that a shortage is highly unlikely. But some cannot rule out traditional Christmas baking being affected unless a viable solution is found. Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, said anybody who is making hot cross buns for Easter will “already have the supplies in place”. Andrew Ciclitira, director of UK dried fruit supplier Demos, urged manufacturers to be “more creative” and look to Australia and South Africa as alternative suppliers of raisins and sultanas.
Whatever the outcome of the current (!) situation, at least it gives bakers an excellent opportunity to expand their menu and use other ingredients, such as dried exotic fruits including mango or coconut and, of course, there is always the fallback of chocolate! For example, Turkey will have a bumper crop of apricots in 2018 which can be dried and stored for several years.
The reality is the world is changing and dried fruit are not the only British basics under threat. So the dried fruit crisis is just one of many to come.