We continue to enjoy favourable conditions of high temperatures, low humidity, good wind and virtually no rain in the Sunraysia region where our farming activities are located. As a result of these conditions our fruit is dried nicely evenly and consistently, with no apparent diseases. So far we couldn’t ask for a better year.
We have been harvesting our Sultanas, Muscat and Currants with our Premium Australian Clusters TM and our other varieties to be harvested through April. This also means we have delivered the first shipments of our new season fruit to our customers. We have in recent times enjoyed meeting with both existing as well as potentially new customers in our travels to Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and California. The high quality of our products, the fact that we are fully integrated and hence have full control over production methodology and can provide high degree of traceability, coupled with our ability to provide year-round secure and stable supply at competitive non-fluctuating prices – continues to gain the recognition and appreciation by customers globally. We were proudly, humbly and gracefully recognised for our efforts when we received the LOHAS award in Hong Kong in March, for our contribution towards improving the lifestyle of health and sustainability of people living in Hong Kong and China.
We remain well progressed in our allocation of this year’s production to our various customers around the world. We encourage those who have not yet been in contact to discuss their requirements for 2016 and beyond to do so soonest to ensure we have sufficient product available to meet expectations.
Assessing the current status in the other key growing regions of dried vine fruit, there are some significant issues playing out which we believe are worthy of mention:
Significant rainfalls have been experienced in the dried vine fruit regions of Argentina and according to our sources has had quite severe negative impact to the quality and size of crop. In particular the organic crop has been impacted.
Anecdotally we understand up towards 20% of the Chilean crop may have sustained damages due to inclement weather.
Significant rainfalls in South Africa have inflicted damage to the crop from there and we have heard that production could be reduced by up to as much as 40% when compared to last year. Similarly to Argentina, we understand that especially the organic crop will be materially reduced.
In Turkey we understand that the key growing regions (around Manisa) have experienced very low temperatures which is likely to cause an increase in the production cost and a lower production volume. Similar situations have played out the last couple of years and the 2015 crop was reduced by more than 1/3 when compared to the 2014 crop. On top of that it has been reported that the tightening regulatory environment for one of the key markets for dried vine fruit, more precisely the EU where proposed new pesticide tolerance levels for chlorpyrifos of 0.01ppm (from current 0.5ppm), may cause some difficulties for Turkish production to comply with.
In California they have finally had in some ways had more favourable weather than what has been the case for the previous four years. The reservoirs and underground aquifers have refilled to some extent yet, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, despite the State being on track to end the winter season near-average conditions the Department cautions that one such season does not compensate for four prior years of extreme drought. The dry and relatively warm weather experienced in February ended with a series of four storms in early March with the total 3 inches of rain, including one that brought nearly 1.3 inches of rain to many of the vineyards in the key growing area in a single day.
It is predicted that temperatures in California will be warmer than normal or average this spring. This in turn means it is likely that the snow-packs that have finally re-appeared will be melting too early and not have the desired impact to assist the growers. The higher temperatures have resulted in the vines being almost a fortnight earlier than what would be the norm at this time of year. The early warm weather coupled with the early-season rain has led to a much increased risk of fungal disease, including phomopsis, leaf spot and of course powdery mildew.
The reduction in productive capacity from the pulling out of vineyards that have been observed over the last few years appears to continue and has seen the reported raisin grape bearing capacity reduced to 190,000 acres as at July 2015, according to the Agricultural Statistics Board NASS, USDA. Our local contacts in the area believe the actual acreage for the 2016 crop is in fact now less than 180,000. A significant reduction from the plantings ten years ago where there was 234,000 acres under vine for raisin production. Again, the most significant impact appears to have hit the organic production as the reduction in productive capacity for organic raisins is some x3 that of conventional just since 2010.
Meantime, the global demand for high quality, organic food with authentic trust-worthy certifications and high levels of traceability continue to grow strongly. The integration of the large vineyard which we acquired in December has gone well and as planned. We will continue to expand our productive capacity from this and our other vineyards to be able to meet our customers’ growing demands. Furthermore, with our new office in Holland now established it enables us to improve our responsiveness and level of service we provide to our customers. We are working on establishing offices with similar functions in the US and in Asia.
We will this year produce a significant volume of Australian conventional dried vine fruit. Similar to our own organic products the conventional fruit is of superb quality and meets the highest levels of food safety regulations. All our fruit is all well within the new proposed EU pesticide tolerance levels. Being able to service our customers with both organic and conventional products is something we believe is an important addition to our offering.
Being a B Certified corporation, we proudly and passionately believe in setting and meeting the highest standards when it comes to Social and Environmental performance, Public Transparency and Legal Accountability. We are pleased to advise that we have completed the installation of solar panels at our processing facility and at our freezing facility, and we will soon commence the install at our main storage facility.
Recent upgrades to our processing facility has resulted in higher productivity and even higher product quality. With more new best-in-class processing equipment being installed we will further increase our productive capacity of high specification products in the near future. Our commitment to continuously assess what we do and seek to improve on it is part of our DNA. It is what we do to ensure that we are able to meet our supply commitments and exceed our customers’ expectations in being their most reliable and sustainable source of healthy food for current and future generations.