The price of dried fruit seems set to remain high, with bakers looking to pass on the costs to consumers. It has been affected by a combination of the strength of the pound, weather and speculation, as well as increased global demand, especially from China, said Mark Setterfield, MD of ingredients supplier RM Curtis.

Turkish sultana crop estimates are some 30,000mts lower than expected, while currant prices look set to be more stable, as the new crop is forecast to be no smaller than the current one, according to the firm.

With the vine fruit harvest due to begin at the end of August, Fiona Bavester, chairperson of the National Dried Fruit Trade Association UK, said, even if estimates were exceeded, "it seems unlikely there will be significant price drops after the harvest". She added that price rises for raisins were expected from California.

A spokesperson for Christmas pudding manufacturer Matthew Walker, part of Northern Foods, said the firm was seeking to ensure it had agreements in place to buy at the best price and the best time. "Nevertheless, if commodity costs do continue to rise going forward, manu-facturers like ourselves will need to recover the higher input costs as we have done pre-viously," he added.

Simon Hatcher, operations manager at Coles Traditional Foods, which specialises in fruit puddings and cakes, said that if prices of dried fruit continued to rise it would be forced to pass on the costs to the consumer in January, when it sets its prices for the year. He said the situation with pricing was so up in the air that the firm was buying spot prices at the moment, whereas it contracted its fruit on a long-term basis when prices were favourable.

Joe Erskine, ingredients director for dried fruit wholesaler Community Foods, said the price hikes shouldn’t affect the larger manufacturers in terms of production for Christmas this year, or most would have already contracted supplies of dried fruit to cover the period. "However some do wait until late to buy the new crop, and may be disadvantaged," he added.

>>Choppy waters