The Polish blackcurrant crop can be more than 50 per cent of global supplies

The International Blackcurrant Association (IBA) and the Polish growers association, KSPCP, have moved to scupper cynical plans to sabotage global blackcurrant crop statistics.

Both associations issued a joint statement following the release of a document purporting to show the Polish blackcurrant crop as being 150,000 tonnes for the 2013 season, when official figures show it is some 45,000t lower than that.

IBA president Svend Jensen believes the document, which quotes the data source as the Karlovy Sadow Association in Lublin, Poland was an attempt to influence the forward price of the crop. So far, it is not understood how the data in the document was compiled.

The annual Polish crop can be more than 50 per cent of the global production, said Jensen, and any suggestion that the Polish crop is larger than usual has an immediate effect on price negotiations for all members of the IBA for the season.

The final harvest figures for the 2013 Polish crop are 105,000 tonnes and as a result the industry expects average total global production and stable demand.

Blackcurrants are grown commercially in 21 countries and the total annual crop for the previous three years has averaged 184,294 tonnes. The global crop is primarily processed for concentrate used in fruit juice drinks and pricing is highly competitive.

Since 2008, the IBA has provided an annual harvest forecast for all member countries and for 12 years before that, the same information was provided by the European Blackcurrant Association. Jensen said: “The IBA information is now accepted by the industry generally as being the most reliable supply information base for both buyers and sellers. But we need to go even further and create a common approach to harvest forecasts covering any sources of official statement. Forecasts have much influence on market-expectations and we are all responsible for reliable information.”

He points to disputes over the reliability of the Polish crop estimates in previous years that have led to uncertainty in the market and market pricing. These have created boom-bust cycles that resulted in severe supply disruption.

Last year, Polish growers formed the KSPCP and this new organisation has developed a system of forecasting in consultation with the Polish regulatory authorities and the major, reputable, juice processors, to provide reliable crop estimates.

Jensen said: “The global industry can cope with good expansion and solid supply. That allows for new product development innovations to have a sound supply base. Developments in agronomy and plant-breeding mean our industry is moving to combat climate change challenges and we can expect, over time, for blackcurrant plantations to cope better with severe climate change. We also expect significant new plantings in eastern Europe and Asia as the interest in blackcurrants is developing outside our traditional growing areas as well.”

The blackcurrant sector is also excited by recent research published showing the potential of blackcurrant supplements to reduce the harmful effects of both physical and mental stress. And the IBA’s agronomy and plant breeding forum on climate change challenge concluded that global warming is likely to enhance the levels of the positive phytochemicals in blackcurrants that help with stress mitigation in humans.