The Raising Bargaining Association (RBA) reached an agreement with its signatory packers for the 2013-14 Natural Seedless raisin harvest field price at $1,650 per ton.

Raisin growers sent a strong message to the industry that they prefer selling raisins on a 100 percent basis now and into the future, according to Glen Goto, CEO of the Fresno, Calif.-based Raisin Bargaining Association. With that in mind, Goto said the RBA board of directors worked diligently toward a compromise with their signatory packers to establish a fair price that reflects the California raisin production for the season.

The Raisin Administrative Committee recently estimated the 2013 Natural Seedless raisin crop at 348,437 tons. This compares to deliveries of 311,090 tons last year. The 13 percent reduction in price from last year’s payment to growers takes into account the additional crop as well as the challenging marketing conditions the industry will face to sell this year’s harvest, Goto said.

The agreement calls for growers to be paid in three installments this year, as opposed to four installments last season. First payment will be 65 percent of the total and is due 15 days after delivery. Growers will receive another 20 percent of their payment price on or before Feb. 28, 2014, and the remaining 15 percent on or before April 30, 2014.

According to Goto, the RBA board understood the importance of establishing this benchmark in a timely manner to sell the maximum amount of raisins as possible this year.

Further challenging the raisin industry are the costs of labor, water and energy. Goto said raisin growers are pulling vineyards out of production in favor of other permanent crops, such as almonds, walnuts and citrus, which favor higher profitability and mechanized harvest procedures.