Prune Market Overview 2022
What has happened in the prunes markets - and what you should expect in the upcoming seasons
In November 2022, International Prune Association held a conference about what has been going in the prune industry. As for the last decades, the prune industry has been struggling with over-supply. Looking at history, between 1994-2013 the global prune production was 375 O00 tons and the average demand was between 260 000 and 270 000 tons, meaning for many years there was much over-supply of prunes. During this time, there were five crops in the USA that were below average, creating a misperception of the industry that it was already fine. However, there was still too much inventory as just one normal crop tilted it to oversupply again.
Around 2014-2016 the total supply was able to go down as shorter crops and acres had come out, replacing the old ones for other plantations. There was still some excess and the demand was under 250 000 tons, and production continued with excess making prices tough. During the years 2017-2020, we had large crops in France, Chile, Argentina, and California. The supply went again over 350 000 tons and demand fell a little bit, trying to maintain the prices.
In 2021-2022 there were not enough hectares in the ground to sustain this excess supply, because of the short crops due to bad weather in Chile, Argentina, and France. With not enough hectares, and with a crop in Chile that was just 60% from the normal, it sped up the process of decreasing the excess supply. Supply went down to 260 O00 tons, while the demand was reduced to 215 000 tons, and the excess supply decreased from 63% to 21%. Gladly, this era of oversupply is now officially over. The industry worked its way through the excess inventory and is now going forward.
Recent Years in the World Prune Markets
The weather conditions in 2022 affected many regions and harvests around the world. For Australia, the 2022 season was a wet summer, and the crops experienced difficult growing conditions. Currently in Australia, the demand for prunes remains high and is expected to continue. The weather conditions in 2021 and 2022 affected Europe strongly, especially France. France is one of the big prune producers in the world; however, seasons 2021 and 2022 were both very severely impacted by cold air. The weather conditions occurring in consecutive years have strongly decreased harvest in 2022, over 80% of French orchards suffered some damage, resulting in many farmers losing over 70% of their harvest. The same cold air front reached up to Italian orchards, affecting their harvest as well.
Californian acreage and production of prunes are in a steady state, and 2022 was a strong bloom. However, some difficulties were faced with the 2022 crop as well, as there were scattered frost events, drought conditions, and summer heat. Inventories have decreased, which has led to an increase in price. Still, the harvest size in 2022 was average, as California produced between 62 000 - 66 000 metric tons of prunes, and continues to be optimistic for the future.
Climate problems have and will continue to cause difficulties in the industry. Argentina's harvest was already smaller for four consecutive years, where the harvest in 2022 produced around 18 O00 metric tons. This is roughly 50% of Argentina's normal harvest and confirmed the 4th low harvest in the prune sector. Unfortunately, due to frost and weather conditions, farmers are expecting a poor Sth harvest in 2023 as well.
In the 2020-2021 season, Chile experienced rain before harvest, but still, has remained steady and in 2021 exported 64 000 metric tons to over 70 countries. In recent years, China has taken first place as the country where Chilean prunes are most exported, as currently, China is the number two importer of prunes in the world. The pandemic came along with logistical difficulties, which caused a significate increase in shipping costs. Still, the expectations for the upcoming crops in Chile are positive, and the estimation is that after harvest Chile will have 68 OOO metric tons of prunes to export in 2023.