Prune Situation and Outlook in Selected Countries
France is the second largest prune producer after the United States. French prune production is estimated to have declined by more than 57 percent in 1997/98 due to excessive rains and cold temperatures during the blossoming and harvesting seasons. However, based on large beginning stocks, french prune exports are expected to increase in 1997/98.
French producers to uproot 3,000 hectares of prunes by the year 2000
The producers working with the Economic Committee for Prunes and the processors have developed an agreement under which approximately 700 hectares of prunes were uprooted this season and an additional 3,000 hectares will be uprooted in the next 2 years. This effort is part of a plan to control production and maintain prices. Additional components of the plan include: commitments of processors to purchase from producers a minimum percentage of the previous year's harvest, to destroy small fruits which have a low value, and for producers to store the surplus production. Only old trees will be replaced.
Prune exports to rise again in 1997/98
Exports of French prunes in 1996/97 increased 7 percent from the previous year due to strong demand and large supplies. In 1997/98 exports are forecast to increase again because of large supplies resulting from large carry-in stocks. Major markets for French prunes include Italy, Spain, Belgium-Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands.
Promotional efforts in these countries focus on the health benefits of French prunes. The French Prune Marketing Board develops promotional activities (ie. commercials, seminars, supermarket promotions) using funds from producer and industry taxes which totaled FF 37 million in 1996/97 and will be FF 32.5 million in 1997/98 ( US$1= FF 5.11). This year the board will also hold "Prune Weeks" in company cafeterias where a cook will prepare a starter dish, a main course, and a dessert with prunes. Promotions are also being organized in cooperation with 15 ski resorts and the French Ski School.
However, French prune consumption is forecast to fall 24 percent in 1997/98 because of likely higher exports. Approximately 80 percent domestic prunes are consumed as dried fruit. The remaining 20 percent are processed into juice, creams, syrup, and other specialty products.
France does not restrict imports of prunes. However, imported prunes must pass an inspection and meet quality standards. An import certificate from the French Interprofessional Fruits and Vegetables Association and a deposit of FF 9.57/100kg is also required. The customs duty is 11.2 percent ad valorem. Due to adequate supplies, prune imports into France have remained at low levels.
California prune production is forecast at 192,000 tons in 1997/98, 5 percent below the previous year. Although the bearing acreage increased by 1 percent to 81,200 acres, yields decreased 6 percent this season. California is the major producer of prunes. Smaller plum/prune producing states include Idaho, Michigan, Washington, and Oregon. Because of concerns over high stocks and lower prices, the industry has attempted to control production in recent years by discouraging and reducing plantings. The industry has also suggested that old orchards be removed and trees pruned to increase the fruit size. It is reported that small prunes, which bring lower prices, are being diverted into cattle feed and other uses. It is hoped that eventually this will help reduce ending stocks which are estimated at a record 102,000 tons in 1996/97 and are forecast to rise again in 1997/98 to another record of 126,000 tons.
Prune exports to Japan climb sharply
U.S. prune exports increased in 1996/97 by 9 percent to 66,951 tons, valued at nearly $139 million. Major markets for U.S. prune exports include Japan, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada, respectively. Sales to Singapore in 1996/97 increased dramatically from 756 tons in 1995/96 to 3,292 tons in 1996/97. The Scandinavian countries are also a significant market for U.S. prunes. In 1997/98 U.S. prune exports are forecast to increase 5 percent to 70,000 tons due to adequate supplies and promotional campaigns.
For the 1997/98 marketing year (August 1997-July 1998), the California Prune Board received over $2.5 million to market California prunes under the Market Access Program (MAP). MAP funding is currently being used to market prunes in China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. The marketing focus in most of these countries is to encourage the consumption of prunes as a healthy, convenient, low-fat snack. In addition, prunes and prune puree are marketed in the United States and other countries as an ingredient in bakery products and other recipes.
In Japan, the leading U.S. market, the target audience is women ages 20-59, men 40-59, as well as men and women over 60. The marketing strategy emphasizes the high quality of California prunes, which are a healthy staple to be eaten every day. By featuring Suzuke prunes (pickled prunes in vinegar/lemon juice) the marketing focus can be expanded to family consumption, men's consumption, and mealtime consumption--because of the Japanese belief in vinegar's ability to stimulate appetite--as opposed to the traditional market of snack consumption by women.
In the United Kingdom, the marketing cornerstone is National Prune Week in March. Media coverage and sampling activities before, during, and after this week create consumer awareness of the positive health benefits of snacking on California prunes. The general target audience is younger women and mothers concerned about their health and the health of their family, but also includes athletes and others looking for a healthy, high-energy snack.
Domestic U.S. prune consumption rose by 8 percent in 1996/97 due to increased supplies and domestic promotions. Consumption is forecast to rise slightly to 98,000 tons in 1997/98.
The 1996 prune crop is estimated at 16,000 tons, 5 percent below the previous year. The crop quality was excellent, but cold weather during the blooming period had adversely affected yields. The 1997 prune harvest is estimated to have increased 10 percent because of a hot summer with little rain, which contributed to the excellent quality of the crop.
Prunes are planted between regions V (San Felipe) and VII (Talca). The largest concentration (85 percent of plantings) is in the Santiago Metropolitan Region VI. Prunes are harvested between February and April and are shipped between April and November. Prunes in Chile are primarily sun-dried and hand-picked, which reportedly increase their sugar content and overall quality.
Exports of Chilean prunes decreased 6 percent in 1996 due to lower supplies. Exports in 1997 are estimated to have increased by 10 percent because of increased production. Major markets for Chilean prunes are Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American countries. The average price for exported prunes in 1996/97 was US $1,485, a decrease of 9 percent below the previous year's level. Ninety percent of Chilean prunes are exported with the remaining, mostly lower quality prunes, sold in the domestic market. Approximately 12 firms export prunes from Chile, one of which accounts for half of all prune exports.
Yugoslavia's (Serbia and Montenegro) 1996/97 prune harvest has been revised downward from 7,000 to 5,700 tons due to decreased production of marketable prunes and credit shortages. The Yugoslavian economy has also been adversely affected by United Nations Sanctions (which were completely lifted October 1, 1996). Production is forecast to decrease further in 1997/98 to 5,000 tons for similar reasons.
Exports are expected to increase from 1,000 tons in 1996/97 to 2,200 tons in 1997/98 due to expected lower domestic consumption. Some prunes, originally designated for export in 1996/97, were processed into plum brandy. The industry prefers that the prunes be exported because of better returns. In 1996/97, 80 percent of Yugoslavian prunes were exported to Russia in exchange for natural gas. The remaining prunes were exported to Austria, Macedonia, and Slovenia. Trade with Russia is expected to continue in 1997/98. Although the future of the prune industry remains uncertain, the Yugoslavian government is expected to contribute more financial support next season to the prune industry and other export-oriented sectors.
(For further information on production, supply,
distribution, and trade, contact Stephanie Riddick at
202-720-9792. For information on marketing opportunities contact
Kelly Strzelecki 202-690-1341.)