On Saturday, March 3, 2012, the Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) will hold its 45th Annual Membership Meeting to report on the past season and future negotiations for Natural Seedless and Zante Currant Raisins. In 1967, 52 courageous independent raisin growers formed an alliance to create a more level playing field for raisin price negotiations with packers. The RBA Field Price has become the industry standard for Natural Seedless and Zante Currant pricing.

The 2011-12 California Raisin marketing season has just completed its first six months of the year that runs from Aug. 1 through July 31. The Raisin Administrative Committee reports that shipments are 3 percent higher than the same period one year ago. The previous year’s shipments were 326,335 tons and current estimates project that Natural Seedless Raisin production levels will be challenged to meet that demand this year. 

The raisin grape juice market was extremely active during the past season. Increased grape demand for juice concentrate and white wine blending resulted in record raisin and green grape prices. There is no indication that this demand will slow especially with the continued loss of Thompson Seedless vineyard acreage. The California Agricultural Statistics Survey reports that 2010 raisin type grape acreage was down to 209,000 from over 280,000 acres little over a decade ago. 

Ongoing shortages of labor to prune and harvest raisin grapes make alternative crops in the San Joaquin Valley much more appealing. Tree nuts, citrus, pomegranates, and crops such as olives and cherries can either provide greater revenue per acre or much less manual labor requirements than raisin grapes. Growers are hard pressed to justify the capital outlay for planting raisin grapes when compared to the alternative crops.

Based on those factors it appears that prices for Natural Seedless and Zante Currant Raisins are likely to increase from the record levels achieved during the past year.