Global events, including poor harvests and the weak pound, have pushed the commodity price of a number of dried fruits up by as much as 64% and prices could rise further.

The hikes come as suppliers and retailers are firming up their plans for Christmas, the busiest time of year for dried fruit sales.

The price of dried apricots has risen 64.6% to £3,122 per metric tonne [Mintec 52w/e 21 July] as a result of poor harvests in Turkey the largest producer of apricots and sultanas. Turkish sultana crops were hit by flooding during their harvest last September and prices soared as speculators fuelled fears the harvest would be devastated, pushing the commodity cost up 30.1% to £1,179 at the end of July [Mintec]. "The crop wasn't reduced by as much as expected, but by the time this was known the price had already jumped," said John McCutcheon, director of dried fruit and nut importer Chelmer Foods. The price then started to fall until about six weeks ago. "There have been increases of about $150 a tonne in the past couple of weeks as the new harvest is about to come in and conditions haven't been great."

In response, US growers of raisins often used interchangeably with sultanas have put prices up. The price hikes had been compounded by uncertainty over subsidies in the US, which subsidises at $350 per metric tonne the main grape variety used for raisins. Raisin prices are up 22% to £1,289 [Mintec] and are likely to rocket if the subsidy is cut.

Retail prices of dried fruits for home baking have risen, with value sales up 17.1% on volume growth of just 2.2% [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 16 May].

Some suppliers predicted retail prices would have to rise further. Preet Grewal, co-founder of Eat Natural, which produces fruit and nut bars and mueslis, said the company had swallowed cost increases, which are eating into its margins. "We're not keen on upping retail prices," said Grewal. "But if costs rise further it becomes untenable. We are highlighting this to our trade customers."