The 2006 International Conference of Dried Grape Producing Countries was held in Monterey, California last month. Representatives from countries, including the USA, Turkey, Greece, Chile, South Africa and Australia, swapped information on harvests, production and marketing at the event.

Of particular relevance to bakers is the supply of sultanas and Thompson seedless raisins. These have decreased 19,100 tonnes or 2.7% from the previous year due to slightly smaller Northern hemisphere crops. Statistical analysis showed that the availability of fruit had decreased by 2.6% as world stocks carried into the new season decreased slightly from an already low base. The conference was satisfied that the world supply was in line with demand.

The supply situation with currants is less balanced with Greece, USA, South Africa and Australia reporting average crops but increased stock levels starting this season. However, the head of the Greek delegation, Andreas Kouniniotis, advised that promotional support was being considered to fund a programme to build consumer demand throughout the EU.

The conference also discussed the alleged health benefits of dried grapes. Dr Julie Jones, Professor of Food Safety & Nutrition at College of Saint Catherine, stated that one half cup of dried grapes equals one serving of fruit and vegetables per day.

Further steps were taken to set up an international dried grape council with a permanent executive board and secretary.