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.
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.
- 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.
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. 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.
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. They are generally divided into small farms.
Production expanded significantly in the 1990s due to more intensive cultivation and adoption of better irrigation techniques. 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. 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).
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.
The Seedless Sultana grapevines are vigorous and adapt to different types of soil, from loamy sands to loans, but the most significant features are good drainage and satisfactory depth. 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. 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 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.
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.
- Natural without dipping
- Natural with dipping
- No. 7 (dark as black)
- No. 8 (dark)
- No. 9 (brownish)
- No. 10 (light brown)
- No. 11 (light brown to golden)
- 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)
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.
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. 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.
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,.