Nutfruit Magazine

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25 March, 2020 Country Product Spotlight

Industry Highlight: Turkish Sultana Raisins

Industry Highlight: Turkish Sultana Raisins

This section provides an insight into the Turkish Sultana Raisin Industry. It comprises of data on production, consumption, and trade, as well as a look into the future prospects.


According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), the 2018 total world area under vines was about 7.4 million ha, with Spain, China, France, Italy, and Turkey accounting for 50% of the world vineyard. The 2018 estimated world production of grapes was 77.8 million metric tons. About 57% of these grapes were used for wine, 36% were consumed as fresh table grapes and 7% as dried grapes. World dried grape production was estimated at 1.3 million metric tons in 2018, the major producers being Turkey, the United States, China, Iran, South Africa and Uzbekistan[1].

The history of the grape vine goes back to prehistoric times. Anatolia is the genetic home of the seedless sultanas as well as Vitis vinifera ssp. silvestris, Vitis vinifera ssp. caucasica, and Vitis silvestris ssp. Sativa[2].

Turkey is:

  • One of the genetic centers for grapes in the world.
  • Home to numerous native varieties. There are 1,495 Turkish grape varieties. However, only around 50-60 have some commercial importance.
  • Climatically suitable for grape production.
  • The 5th largest in the world in terms of area.
  • The 6th largest in the world in terms of production.
In order for a region to be considered a genetic center, new species must originate there spontaneously. The Manisa Viticulture Research Institute has conducted 15 years of selection studies and has found that 38 new Sultana types emerged spontaneously. The differences among these are determined by examining their morphological and physiological characteristics: “berry” and “bunch” properties, sugar level, yield, date of ripening and others.
Turkey is one of the world’s largest dried grape producers, along with the United States, China, and India. The country produces over 25% of the world's production of dried grapes and is the leading exporter.
Table grapes made up approximately 53%, dried grapes 32% and vine grapes 15% of the total Turkish grape production in 2018.   
Seedless “Yuvarlak Çekirdeksiz” and “Sultani” are the main cultivars used for raisins[4]. The production of commercial Sultana grape is concentrated in the western Aegean region, mainly in Manisa (75%), Denizli (17%) and Izmir (9%). Seedless grape production averages about 1.47 million metric tons, which accounts for approximately 37% of the total grape crop. About 71% of the production is consumed as dried and the remaining 29% as fresh.

The Seedless Sultana –also known as Sultanina, Sultanieh, Thompson Seedless, Oval and Ak Kişmiş– is characterized by small, white, seedless berries; large clusters; thin skin and firm pulp[5].
One kilogram of raisins requires about 4 kilograms of fresh grapes. It is estimated that there are nearly 65,000 growers who produce seedless grapes in Turkey[6]. They are generally divided into small farms.
Production expanded significantly in the 1990s due to more intensive cultivation and adoption of better irrigation techniques[7]. Turkey has been capable of responding to market growth by increasing its production volume without sacrificing quality. This has been possible by both enlarging the production area and utilizing modern viticulture techniques to increase productivity[8]. The use of irrigation systems in vineyards has increased in recent years with government support. Over half of the vineyards in Manisa are drip irrigated.
Production area (ha) has steadily increased over the past decade, however, production (MT) fluctuates yearly, depending on the weather conditions (Table 1).

As the motherland of Sultanina, Turkey is the leading supplier of Sultana raisins. It accounts for a quarter of the world production of raisins and is the lead exporter. Other major dried grape producing countries include the United States, China, and India (Table 2).
The Seedless Sultana was transported from the Aegean to all the countries where it is grown today: the United States, Australia... In the US, the Seedless Sultana variety is called “Thompson Seedless” –after William Thompson, an English born viticulturist who settled in Sutter County, California, in 1863– and is the dominant grape variety grown in California.
Raisin production in Turkey has ranged between approx. 200,000 and 330,000 MT over the last ten years (Table 1). In 2019/20, it has been estimated at 305,000 MT, up 17% from the 2018/19 season, which was hit by unfavorable weather conditions –rain and hail– during spring and summer.
Regarding quality, 2019/20 has been one of the best crops.
The Seedless Sultana grapevines are vigorous and adapt to different types of soil, from loamy sands to loans[9], but the most significant features are good drainage and satisfactory depth[10]. They require a hot, dry climate (i.e. warm days, cold nights) and little moistness in the air to yield high-quality grapes. Adequate temperature and sufficient sunlight are required for fruit maturation.
Harvest time is crucial for the grape since one heavy rainstorm during this process can cause substantial damage[11]. The harvest season usually starts around mid-August and is determined according to the sugar levels of the grapes. The sugar content is measured using refractometers.
The marketing year refers to the period between September 1 and August 30 of the following year.

The grapes are cut and then transferred to the drying area. Here, the grapes are dipped into a harmless water solution containing potassium carbonate and olive oil that intensifies the drying process. Dipping the grapes prior to drying also reduces their tendency to darken –the raisins turn amber or yellowish. Then, they are placed on drying beds.
About 90% of the dried production is dipped into a harmless potassium carbonate solution to speed up the drying process. They turn amber or yellowish. Only 10% are dark-colored and dried without any pre-treatment.  
The raisin industry is well developed in Turkey, with large and modern facilities that meet the highest standards. Exporters associations, cooperative unions and commodity exchanges in the producing areas have made great efforts in implementing better farming practices and providing high-quality products. Quality assurance systems such as Good Agricultural Practices, Integrated Product Management and Integrated Pest Management with a “farm to fork” approach is becoming more and more important.
One example is the TARIŞ Sultana Raisins Cooperative Union, which was established in the 1930s to prevent a drop in prices as a result of the global economic crisis. Today, TARIŞ is one of the largest Sultana buyers and exporters, with a total of 13 cooperatives and 15,000 growers/members. TARIŞ experts have been controlling the quality of Sultana raisins since 1948. The vines are grown under controlled conditions and the Sultanas are harvested and dried under supervision of the TARIŞ Research and Development Department. The dried fruits are graded and received by TARIŞ experts and stored in warehouses under controlled conditions.
TS 3411 Standards define the color and size classification, packing and labeling in force for the exportation of Sultana Raisins.
Groups: The raisins are divided into two groups.
  1. Bleached
  2. Unbleached
    1. Natural without dipping
    2. Natural with dipping
Types: They are separated into five types according to their colors.
  • No. 7 (dark as black) 
  • No. 8 (dark)
  • No. 9 (brownish)
  • No. 10 (light brown)
  • No. 11 (light brown to golden)
Sizes: Each season, the size tolerances are revised according to berry size. Here are the sizes for the 2019 dried grape crop:
  • Jumbo (<220 berries in 100 g)
  • Standard (221 to 300 berries in 100 g)
  • Medium (301 to 400 berries in 100 g)
  • Small (401 to 550 berries in 100 g)
  • Small-small (>551 berries in 100 g)
Packaging: The packages should be made of new, clean, dry and odorless convenient materials which do not destruct the properties of the product inside, are harmless for humans, and do not exceed 15 kg in net weight. The optional smaller packages in various dimensions may be put into larger outer packages, which will protect the product in conformity with the conditions above. The Extra, Class I and Class II raisins are not put into sacks or bag packages.
The industrial class raisins are only put in sacks or bag packages. The weight of these may not be less than 15 kg. For small consumer packages, there is a ±2% weight tolerance.
In the EU, Commission Regulation (EC) No 1666/1999 of 28 July 1999 lays down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/96 regarding the minimum marketing characteristics for dried grapes (CN code 0806 20) intended for consumption or for export to third countries.


Turkey accounts for more than 30% of the world's dried grape exports. About 85% of the dried seedless grapes that the country produces are exported, thanks to stable demand from Europe, the most popular variety being Sultana. Domestic consumption and stocks constitute the remaining 15% of the production.
Since 2008, Turkey has exported an average of 233,000 MT of dried grapes per year. In 2018, raisin exports reached a record high of 278,950 MT (Table 3) and this figure is likely to increase in line with the increase in production. The number of destination countries has also increased in recent years from 92 in 2014 to 107 in 2018.
About 84% of Turkey’s dried grape exports are to the European Union, the main destinations being the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany (Table 4), which together account for 51% of the exports to the EU.

The highest average annual growth in imports over the last five years was recorded by the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan and Canada (Table 5). Other countries with a significant average annual import growth in quantity were France, Ireland, and Italy.
Turkey also imports a small number of currants, usually about 2,000 MT per year. According to the Aegean Exporters’ Association, Turkey exported 252,450 MT of seedless raisins between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019, exceeding 516 million USD. The export value increased by 14% compared with the previous marketing year. The new season started on September 1, 2019, and up to February 15, 2020, exports reached 129,956 MT, from which 105,804 MT were destined to the EU.
Mr. Osman Oz, Chairman of the Turkish Dried Fruit Sectoral Board, is optimistic for 2020. “Despite [China] being producers themselves, sales to China are increasing and I hope to see this continue. In addition, with California production decreasing each year, I believe they will become an importer in the future”, Mr. Oz said.
The Aegean Exporters' Association (EIB), founded in 1939, represents more than 7,500 exporting companies operating in 12 different sectors in the Aegean region, including more than 400 members in the dried fruit industry that account for 65% of Turkey’s total dried fruit exports. EIB priorities include sustainable production, food safety and monitoring developments in international and domestic markets. Among their activities, EIB organizes training programs and seminars, supports research and social responsibility projects, and organizes export promotion activities. Data on dried fruit exports are available on the EIB website.
The Izmir Commodity Exchange (ICE) began to trade raisins in 1924. Trading transactions are determined through bargaining with agents and brokers that are members of the ICE. Product samples from the production areas are displayed according to product types. The sessions in the Raisins Transaction Hall are held every day between 12:00 and 1:30 pm. The prices that are set at the end of the session according to the transactions carried out are announced as daily closing prices. Further details and daily prices for raisins can be found on the ICE website.


Despite Turkey’s leading role in the production of raisins, domestic consumption is comparatively low. About 85% of the production is exported. The reason being that consumers prefer fresh grapes during the season. In addition, there are many alternative dried fruits widely available, like apricots and figs[12]. In Turkey, raisins are mainly consumed as a snack and as an ingredient in bakery products, such as cakes and biscuits.
In 2015, in order to increase domestic consumption and awareness of the health benefits of dried grapes, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry started a campaign to distribute raisins to school kids. The campaign finished in 2018.

Future Expectations

An increasing demand for healthy foods across the globe should translate into opportunities for Sultana raisins. The growing attention to high sugar content is influencing the food and beverage market. A growing number of traders and processors have turned to buying dried fruit without added sugar, and in many bakery dietary products, dried grapes are increasingly used as a natural substitute for sugar[13],[14].

[1] OIV 2019 Statistical Report on World Vitiviniculture
[2] İlter, E. & Altindisli, A. (2008). Turkish Sultanas. Aegean Exporters’ Association, 3-4.
[3] Turkish Statistical Institute,
[4] Soylemezoglu, G., Atak, A., Boz, Y., Unal, A., & Saglam, M. (2016). Viticulture in Turkey. Chronica Horticulturae, 56(2), 27-31.
[5] FAO-OIV Focus 2016 Table and Dried Grapes.
[6] GAIN Report, Turkey Raisin Annual Report. July 29, 2019.
[7] GAIN Report, Turkey Raisin Annual Report. July 29, 2019.
[8] Soylemezoglu, G., Atak, A., Boz, Y., Unal, A., & Saglam, M. (2016). Viticulture in Turkey. Chronica Horticulturae, 56(2), 27-31.
[9] L. Peter Christensen. (2000). Raisin Production Manual. UCANR.
[10] FAO-OIV Focus 2016 Table and Dried Grapes.
[11] Klin, J. W. (2012). Nuts and Dried Fruits. Jeweka B.V.
[12] GAIN Report, Turkey Raisin Annual Report. July 29, 2019.
[13] CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2019). Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for processed fruit and vegetables and edible nuts?
[14] CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2017). Exporting dried grapes to Europe.
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