California’s raisin producers breathed a sigh of relief in early October when they finally brought in the last of their dried grapes.
Despite a later-than-usual start of the harvest and the resulting increased threat of precipitation, most of the crop escaped damage from early fall rains.
Making the harvest all the more sweet was the Raisin Bargaining Association’s announcement in early October of a Natural Seedless field price of $1,500 per ton on a 100 percent deliver basis for this year’s crop.
That’s a 13 percent increase over last year and reflects the lowest carry-in to a new crop in 30 years and the continuing decline in raisin production worldwide.
“Scattered rains in the San Joaquin Valley at the end of September and in the first week of October caused a little quality deterioration in about 10 percent of the raisins,” reports Victor Sahatdjian, president of Victor Packing, Inc., Madera, Calif. “But, for the vast majority of the crop, raisin quality was very good this year.”
With grape growth slowed for much of the season due to unusually cool weather, the harvest didn’t start much before the end of August, if then. In fact, many growers waited until Labor Day to being picking.
By then, though, most faced a labor crunch, as growers sought to get their grapes laid down prior to the federal crop insurance deadline later in the month.
“That prolonged the harvest period and resulted in growers picking grapes later than usual,” Sahatdjian says.
Like other packers, he has been conditioning raisins that developed mold from the rain or those contaminated by sand splashed on them by the rain as they lay on the trays. In other cases, he has been dehydrating raisins that failed to finish drying fully on the trays in order to reduce moisture to the levels required for processing and storage.