The USDA has recognized the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) recommendation to implement an export replacement program through Oct. 31. This action validates the $1,310 per ton field price agreements with signatory packers.

The RAC recommended a final free tonnage percentage of 87 percent for 2008 deliveries of Natural Seedless (NS) raisins.

Whether or not that will encourage the market to “go green” is still uncertain. Rainfall and labor issues during the 2009-2010 season may persuade growers to sell raisin-variety grapes to the fresh-grape, wine, or juice concentrate markets.

“Growers are still going to have to make a determination based on economics whether to make raisins or go green,” says Glen Goto, CEO of the Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA), Fresno, Calif. “I think the $225 green price could have an impact on 2009 decisions made by growers based on the fact that in 2008, despite the large volume of grapes growers made into raisins, there were quality issues. The ultimate conversion from grapes to raisins was higher than normal. Any advantage to the raisin price was taken away because it took more green grapes to make raisins.”

At this point in the 2009 season it’s a “wait and see” scenario. Early weather factors are still playing out.

“We had a little bit of frost earlier,” Goto says. “We don’t know how much that’s going to impact this crop. It could have an effect on some of the buds that were starting to push. We had reports that some vineyards had temperatures as low as 27-28 degrees, but it wasn’t for a long period of time. It got down to that level right before daybreak, then warmed up.”