The raisin market has changed dramatically over the past 12 months and, in line with most other food commodities, prices have increased. Raisin and sultana supplies from Eastern Mediterranean suppliers were affected by the 2007 drought, which in turn reduced European supplies significantly. This led to dried vine fruit shortages early in 2008. As a result, and in line with the laws of supply and demand, raisin and sultana prices saw increases throughout 2008 - in some cases by as much as 50%. As the world’s largest per capita user of dried vine fruit buyers in the UK began to look at other origins. There are 21 different varieties of raisins available in the UK market, from nine different origins, so competition is strong.
Price changes have forced buyers to look at other origins, notably California and parts of South America. But, like wine grapes, not all raisins taste the same; growing practices, soil and weather all play a part in the final product. Buyers are looking for consistency of supply, size, quality and taste. Largely due to these reasons, California has enjoyed a significant uplift in sales to Europe.
Despite rising costs, demand for raisins and dried vine fruit has steadily increased by approximately 7% year-on-year since 2003. The UK is still the largest market per capita for dried vine fruit, importing around 113,000mt last year.