Raisin prices are climbing back up for grapes this season, but smaller Thompson seedless crops may temper expectations for a lucrative year. A reduction in overall acreage, combined with weather conditions may have been contributing factors to the situation growers are facing.
Most growers were expecting a fairly substantial crop based on the amount of rainfall last winter, however, that was not the case. Vice President of Operations for Allied Grape Growers Jeff Bitter noted that “it appears to be, based on the numbers we’ve seen and experienced internally, probably the lightest crop of Thompsons we’ve had in at least a couple of decades.”
Raisin prices that were negotiated by the Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) are over 50 percent higher than last year’s 16-year low. However, Bitter indicated that the conditions essentially cancel each other out. “You’re really just trading dollars. You’re getting more per ton and you’ve got fewer tons out there. So, I don’t see this being a great revenue year for traditional raisin growers,” said Bitter.
Some complications were somewhat expected after the long stretches of high temperatures during the height of summer, coupled with the scattered rainstorms in early September, but growers were still caught off guard. “What we didn’t realize was how short the bunch count and how short the raisin grape crop was going to be for the 2017 year crop,” said RBA CEO Kalem Barserian
Competition from newer varieties of table grapes and growers switching to other commodities such as almonds has also caused a significant reduction in raisin grape acreage. “Just 17 years ago we had 280,000 bearing acres of raisin grapes in the state of California. This coming year, when the numbers are reported, they’re probably going to look like 155,000 acres,” Barserian said.
Listen to the interview below.