One thing is sure; the South African raisin crop is indeed importantly smaller than last year.
As was expected already by the majority of the South African raisin-farmers, the overall crop in South Africa is disappointing, to say the least.
Although all the figures are not yet known, one can be, more or less, sure that the crop shall be abt 20.000 tons smaller than last season.
We feel that the smaller tonnage, as such, should not be the biggest problem because under normal conditions the raisin-crop in South Africa never exceeds a tonnage of 35 to 45.000 tons. In other words, only the 2013 crop was exceptionally big and with the carry-over of last season, there should be enough raisins.
The main reason that we are facing a smaller crop is due to the fact that at the time of blossoming, nightfrost came up regularly. Due to this frost-period in the beginning, some farmers speak about about losses upto 50 percent. Another negative factor was the fact that during the last two months, the areas were regularly visited by more than usual heavy rains, which, in the end, made a lot of farmers decide to make Thompsons rather than go for goldens. The logic consequence is that the percentage of golden raisins is importantly smaller than last year, since farmers realize that a premium is only paid for top-quality farmersstock raisins.
Speaking about a positive factor: in order to get better yields in the future there is a strong tendency that farmers shall plant more and more Merbein seedless “stokkies”, which surely will give a much better tonnage per acre and that means that in a few years we can expect regularly (if growing conditions are normal) crops of 55 to 60.000 tons.
Re: Thompsons: with the knowledge that Thompson-like raisins are being offered from Turkey, Iran and India at very sharp levels, so to say, there will be, for the time being, no good reasons to expect firm markets fot the latter.
Only in case the Californian crop should really suffer from the foreseen drought in the months to come, there is a fair chance that prices for Thompsons might increase.
Again, this is only for Thompsons and Thompson-like raisins. The golden-raisin market is a totally different story.
Summarizing: only in case that the leading countries Turkey (late frost) and California (drought) find enough reasons, in a later stage, to hold back seriously, there is a chance that by July/August we could see an upward change in the market.
As far as the outcome of the crop in South Africa is concerned: we need to be patient for another three weeks before we know more exactly what the total tonnage of this crop is and having said so, we will then get a better impression what the price-levels (both for goldens and Thompsons), for the months to come, shall be.