What is in this article?:
- The California raisin-type grape crop is huge compared to last season — bringing benefits and problems.
Huge opportunity for raisin sales
Growers received $1,900 per ton last season.
“We also recognize we are picking more trays this year than last year, but we also could get 2 inches of rain in October and that would wipe out a lot of the crop (even it is rolled),” Goto said.
Goto believes there is an upside to raisin sales to warrant higher prices. “A big crop could be a good thing this year. Turkey produced more than 300,000 metric tons of raisins last year. This year the estimate is 240,000 tons. That difference could provide a huge opportunity for California raisin sales into Europe.”
Raisin-type grapes, primarily Thompson seedless, represent the largest acreage in the state. 27 percent of the state’s 732,000 acres of grapes are raisin-type. NASS is estimating 2.4 million tons of raisin-type grapes will be produced this season.
Wineries will take about 300,000 tons of those grapes green to be used to produce concentrate and wine. Most of the rest will be dried at a ratio of roughly 5 tons green for 1 ton dry.
Many Thompson growers have the option of harvesting green or drying for raisins. Raisins are the more expensive option because of the labor costs of picking, drying, rolling and boxing raisins.
Labor continues to an issue in the Central Valley, and growers are paying approximately 33 cents per tray for workers. Last year it was about 25 cents.
Signs are widely posted on vineyards seeking workers, some offering up to $12 for harvest labor.
“If a grower was expecting 25 workers to show up to pick, he likely got only about 10. Workers are also selective about the vineyards where they pick,” Goto.
This has spooked some growers to go green. There are reports some growers have terraced for raisins and at the last minute, harvested green.
Although labor was an issue again, Goto believes at least 75 percent of the crop would be laid to dry before the Sept. 15 insurance deadline to get raisins on the ground to dry.
“We started harvesting earlier than normal and that helped with the labor situation,” Goto said.
DiBuduo said uncertainty over green prices prompted some growers to stop picking soon after harvest began.
“At the end of August some growers stopped picking because of price uncertainty. There was a heat spell and the grapes had trouble sugaring. Growers could hold up and the grapes would not run away until they got a firm offer,” he said.
Early season reports of the wine grape harvest are reporting good production and stable prices with some areas pricing above last season. That is certainly good, according to DiBuduo.