Organic food is the leading trend among consumers today, and organic raisins are no exception. The primary raisin producers are U.S.A., Turkey, and China. Iran and Argentina are also included in the top 12 countries that produce organic raisins. North America, Europe, and Australia are expecting a higher demand for organic foods this year. Europe, the primary exporter of dried raisins, which recorded a 31.75% global share in 2019, is expected to dominate the distribution of organic raisins globally. Other countries in Asia, like India, are also developing innovations to serve the market demands on organic raisins.
The raisins market in North America is expected to increase from USD533.77M in 2019 to USD778.69 by the end of 2027. The new applications and requirement of organic foods increased the consumption demands across the globe. Australia, on the other hand, expects 240,000 metric tons (MT) of organic raisins for the 2020-2021 market year, an increase of 15,000 MT from its 2019-2020 market year.
While U.S. and Turkey top the export shares, Argentina is ranked as 9th in export market shares globally and sits as the 3rd country to grow most of the organic raisin exports. Statistics show a growth of 53% in export value and 22% in volume during the past five years.
There are various raisin varieties, but the dominant range Argentina produces is the Flame Seedless, which covers 54% of the country’s total production. Other classifications include Arizul (INTA C G 351), Cereza, Sultanina Blanca (Thompson Seedless), Torrontes San Juanito, Superior Seedless, Criolla Chica, Emperador, Tinogastena, and Black Seedless. Another variety that dominated Argentina in 2008 is the Fiesta that originated from the U.S. It has outstanding yields, adaptability, and drying control. The Province of San Juan estimates 1,000 hectares of Fiesta plantation and is more likely to produce more of this variety in the coming years.
Production and Consumption Forecast
Argentina’s domestic consumption of organic raisins estimates from 5,000 micro tons to 6,000 micro tons per year. The number might potentially increase as studies show that organic raisins are used progressively in bakery, pastries, and ice cream. Due to this demand, 2020’s domestic consumption raised from 5,500 micro tons in 2019 to 6,000 micro tons.
The likely fair weather forecast earlier this year makes Argentina’s projection of raisin production to maintain its volume at 44,000 metric tons in 2021, which is higher than 2020 but resembling 2019’s raisin production. The production in 2019 yields to 42,000 metric tons of product while it went down to 37,250 metric tons in 2020. The decline of produce is implicated by the natural life cycle of raisin grape plants.
Out of the projected number, 38,000 metric tons are expected for export movements. Although the forecast is subject to change due to the market needs inflation, and exchange rates brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Most homes in Argentina opt for home foods, which has taken a portion of the export stocks leading to a squeezed commercial share.
Argentina’s organic raisin production mainly exports to Brazil, which carries around 70 percent of the country’s production. Apart from Brazil, the region also exports organic raisins to Colombia, United States, Peru, and Uruguay. The country produces over 90 percent of its organic raisins in San Juan Province, parallel to Argentina’s Andes Mountains. Simultaneously, 10 percent are grown in La Rioja and Mendoza Provinces. Meanwhile, the agriculture administration is already planning to increase the plantation area of raisin grapes up to 18,500 acres to increase store production while tracking better markets and pricing alternatives.
The pandemic contributed to lower international demand for organic raisins leading to a decrease in prices. The market condition for the year 2021, however, is expected to normalize and resume its usual rates. The last reported price for organic raisins is ARS 4.64/bag as wholesale.
Challenges in Producing Organic Raisins
Argentina is enduring infrastructure scarcity and production costs as a result of the pandemic. Seventy percent of its total costs are allocated for labor costs. Producers, however, acquire a drying system called Dried-on-Vine (DoV) that reduces labor costs. At present, around 200 hectares of raisins are dried using the DoV system in San Juan. It is expected that in five- or ten years, DoV will be the main means of the drying process in the region. The actual drying process of raisins in Argentina takes 15-30 days, depending on the variety, which takes much labor costs and time. The grapes are sun-dried and laid on racks, and covered by stones. The products should have 15-20 percent moisture content to pass the export quality. Vegetable oil is applied after the drying process, then packed in cases, clusters, or bulk.
The remaining costs are split into raw materials, freight, fuel, agrochemicals, energy, and high inflation rates. Furthermore, producers are also faced with high import tariffs on the export trades.
Despite the challenges in producing organic raisins, the government, producers, and private investors alike are creating some changes and plans to help meet the international demands for higher yields. Aside from converting vineyards to raisin grape plantations, investors are also incorporating innovations to increase the volumes of products while maintaining a high-quality, economical, and more competitive export produce.
The innovation started with associating laser and x-ray technology to optimize the harvest’s speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Additionally, the irrigation system is being developed to enhance water operations. San Juan is a very dry region having an average of 8 inches or less of rainfall per year; hence, the irrigation system cuts an additional budget for producers. At present, the primary source of water for all San Juan plantations is from the melted snow of the Andes Mountains.
Raisins are mainly used as salad toppings to desserts, pies, cereals, oatmeal mix, or yogurts. It can also be added to baked pastries, muffins, and bread. Irrespective of their sizes, raisins are a good source of antioxidants, energy, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, boron, Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It also has an excellent amount of fiber that aids in a healthy digestive system and B-complex vitamins that help in anemia treatment.