The Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) has reached an agreement with signatory raisin packers to extend the current pricing contract through the 2010 harvest seasons for Natural Seedless raisins.

The existing 2007 pricing contract will remain in force for this year’s harvest as previously agreed with a base price of $1,102.

A sliding scale pricing mechanism that has been in place for several seasons will continue for the term of the new agreement.

This sliding scale sets the minimum for the 2007 crop as well as the $1,310 for the 2008 crop for Natural Seedless raisins.

According to Glen Goto, RBA CEO, the association and the signatory packers “have been sensitive to the economic situation faced by raisin grape growers.

“These minimum price levels provide an opportunity for the grower community to absorb costs that continue to skyrocket.”

As an example, with immigration reform in question and increased border security, there is “grave concern” about the cost/availability of labor harvest this year’s crop.

Plus, tight surface water situations have forced most growers to pump water from their underground sources at much higher costs than canal water. In addition, fuel and fertilizer costs continuing to increase.

According to the USDA/NASS total acreage of “raisin-type” grape vineyards has decreased to 225,000 acres (down 20 percent) since 2000 due to these ever-increasing costs of production.

On July 12 NASS released the preliminary production forecast, calling for a 13 percent increase compared to the 2006 crop, which has been characterized as “one of the smallest raisin grape crops in history.”

Raisins Inventory levels are extremely tight, according to Goto, and the industry needs an adequate supply of “quality product” this year to maintain the annual marketplace of more than 300,000 tons of sales for California Raisins.

Signing up with RBA are; American Raisin Packers, Lion Raisins, Biola Raisin Company, National Raisin Company, Boghosian Raisin Packing Company, Sun-Maid Growers of California, Caruthers Raisin Packing Company, Sunset Raisin and Nut, Central California Packing Company, Victor Packing Company, Chooljian Brothers Packing Company, West Coast Growers and Del Rey Packing Company