No price has yet been announced for the 2013 raisin crop.

This price, in turn, drives the price of the two options growers have for selling their grapes – wineries and the juice concentrate market. These outlets normally account for about 15 percent of the Thompson Seedless crop, Bitter says.

No green price has been announced for this season. However, in some limited activity up to now, Thompson Seedless has sold at a minimum green price of $285, Bitter reports.

Last year the green price rose to $325 a ton, which is the highest price ever paid for raisin varieties for crushing. Bitter is among many who doubt it will reach that level this time.

“It got there last year due to a kind of perfect storm of factors,” he explains. “We had a short raisin grape crop which the market wanted. Plus, inventories of raisins, bulk wine and concentrate were low. That drove up the both raisin and green prices. Those factors don’t exist to the extent they did last year.”

After taking into account the loss of tonnage as grapes dry down for raisins and the cost in time, labor and weather risks to make raisins, a 2013 raisin price similar to last year would equate to a green price in the range of $285 to $300 per ton, Bitter notes.

“If wineries come out with a $300 price for Thompson Seedless, raisin growers would have a very strong incentive to go green this year,” he says.

Bitter doesn’t expect any more raisin growers to sell grapes to wineries than usual this year. “Wineries may crush more Thompson Seedless than normal simply because more will be available,” he says. “Most raisin growers did well in the raisin market last year. They’re optimistic that they’ll do well again this year. However, if wineries were to come out with a $250 a ton price, a fence-sitting grower would almost certainly decide to make raisins.”

 Because Allied supplies wineries that buy Thompson Seedless for their sparkling program, they’re usually one of the first to start harvesting each year – typically around August 7. This year they began July 25.

“I’m guessing the raisin harvest may start one to two weeks earlier than normal as well,” Bitter says. “That will give us that much more time to get the bigger crop harvested, dried and in the barn.”

If you would like to read more about California grape growing, subscribe to GrapeLine, the exclusive electronic newsletter sponsored twice a month by Chemtura: See here for sign-up. It’s free and e-mailed the second and fourth weeks of each month from March through October.


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