Slack production pulls raisin consumption lower

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Lower global production of raisins led the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lower its forecast for global raisin consumption in 2010-11 by 8% to 1 million tonnes. The projections were published in the “Raisins: World Markets and Trade” report issued this week.

According to the F.A.S., global raisin consumption has weakened over the past few years due in large part to lower availability. The E.U.-27 consumes nearly one-third of the world’s raisins and has accounted for most of the decline due to tight supplies from Turkey and the United States.

With a projected total of 1,000,900 tonnes, global raisin consumption forecast for 2010-11 would be down from 1,087,630 tonnes in 2009-10, 1,073,984 tonnes in 2008-09, 1,134,434 tonnes in 2007-08 and 1,086,286 tonnes in 2006-07.

The E.U.-27 was forecast to consume 316,000 tonnes in 2010-11, down 8% from 343,500 tonnes in 2009-10. The second-largest raisin consumer, the United States, is expected to experience a 9% decline in consumption in 2010-11, to 205,000 tonnes from 224,835 tonnes.

The F.A.S. also projected global production in 2010-11 to be lower, the third year of contraction. At a projected total of 1,017,500 tonnes, global raisin production in 2010-11 would be down 2% from 1,040,135 tonnes in 2009-10. Global raisin production totaled 1,075,952 tonnes in 2008-09, 1,104,193 tonnes in 2007-08, 1,042,677 in 2006-07 and 1,078,345 tonnes in 2005-06.

The United States is expected to be the largest raisin producer in 2010-11 with output of 280,000 tonnes, 40,000 more tonnes than the No. 2 producer, Turkey. If realized, it would mark the fourth straight year in which the United States was the world’s largest raisin producer, according to the F.A.S.

Even so, the U.S. raisin crop has been challenged, the agency noted.

“The United States is forecast 5% lower due in part to mildew problems from cool, wet weather early in the summer,” the F.A.S. said. “Also, the crop was over two weeks behind normal, which is expected to increase the drying ratio and lower production.”

The F.A.S. said several other ranking top producers are experiencing difficulties in matching last year’s totals.

“Turkey is forecast down 8% due to a frost in March as well as heavy rains that limited the use of agricultural inputs such as plant protection chemicals,” the F.A.S. said. “China is forecast 20% lower due to damage from a strong windstorm in Turpin, the primary growing region. Partially offsetting these losses, Iran and Chile are forecast up 25% and 12%, respectively.”

Global exports in 2010-11 were forecast down 6% to 660,000 tonnes from 704,200 tonnes in 2009-10. The decline reflects expected large losses from the United States, Turkey and China, which more than offset stronger exports from Iran and Chile. Exports from the United States were forecast at 110,000 tonnes, down 35% from 170,000 tonnes in 2009-10, and compared with exports of 144,295 tonnes in 2008-09, 152,385 in 2007-08 and 112,220 tonnes in 2006-07.

The F.A.S. said the decline in U.S. exports was due “primarily to low carry-in stocks.”

“Exports were exceptionally strong the previous three years as high inventory levels were drawn down to supply overseas markets,” the F.A.S. said. “With inventory levels tightening, exports are forecast to return to the pre-2007-08 level. As a result, exports to the E.U.-27, Japan and Canada are expected to decline.”

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