May 2017

Estimated Raisin Grape Acreage 2016

Black Corinth                                         1,517                   6

Dovine                                                    562                    -0-

Fiesta                                                     12,081                300

Selma Pete                                            4,609                   455

Sultana                                                  123                      -0-

Thompson Seedless                               136,466              407

Other Raisins                                        709                     175

2017 Bunch Count Survey

After last years's low bunch count, this year is even lower at an average of 29 bunches per vine versus last year of 34 bunches per vine. The ten year average is 37 bunches per vine

Raisin Grape Sales to Wineries

As of the past few seasons a reduced amount of raisin grapes have been crushed to the wineries. In 2014 the wineries crushed 155,000 green tons, 2015, 92,000 green tons, and in 2016 they crushed 98,000 green tons. Due to the shortages of "Dry White Wine", there is more activity this spring then in the past seasons. We are hearing $245.00 roadside for early raisin grapes. It is not known if they will crush up to 155,000 green grapes or higher this season,but we can hope. For each 50,000 tons of raisin grapes sold to the wineries it shortens the raisin crop by 11,000 tons.

Photo by brentawp/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by brentawp/iStock / Getty Images

Supreme Court of the United States

  The Supreme Court decided on June 10, 2013,that the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to personal property. The cases arose out of a dispute involving the California Raisin Reserve Pools. Due to the court's decision three suits have filed against the US Government. RBA has joined with Sun Maid in that suit, which is a class action case. More information will be forth coming,regarding all RBA growers who will be included in this case. We are not sure sure about non-RBA members being opted in. We will opt in our RBA members who deliver raisins between 2002 and 2009. 2004 was a 100% free tonnage year and will not be considered,this case could involve several hundred million dollars. For more information call Kalem at the RBA office. (559)221-1925

                                                    RAISIN GRAPES

  Early- season signs point to a second straight smaller-than-usual raisin crop plus anticipated better returns for grower. By the first week of May, with daytime temperatures in the Fresno, Californaia, area reaching well into the 90s', Kalem Barserian,CEO and General Manager of the Raisin Bargaining Associasion described development of the 2017 raisin crop as pretty close to normal. "The vines are growing nicely and there's plenty of water for irrigation," he says. "Overall, things are looking good in the vineyards".                

   However, up until the end of April,temperatures since bud break had been a little cooler than usual, Barserian notes. "Heat units are what count," he says. "So, even if the vines are behind a few days at this stage, there's plenty of time to pick up the heat units for the crop to be maturing at the normal rate by September 1". In fact he adds, this year's lower-than usual bunch counts-the second in a row- is likely to help accelerate sugar development and ripening of the grapes, since the vines will have less fruit to support. Typically, Thompson seedless and other raisin-type varieties produce somewhere around 40 clusters per vine. This year, two different industry surveys show bunch counts ranging from about 28 to 31, Barserian reports.

   That compares to bunch counts of 43 in 2015 and 34 in 2016. "At this point in the season, we're expecting raisin grape yields, of around 9 tons per acre in 2015. Lower yields and continued conversion of raisin grape ground this year to orchards of tree nuts or other more lucrative crops should contribute to an upswing in prices growers receive for their 2017 raisins, Barserian notes.

   Last year's raisin price was $1,000 per ton- 31 percent under the $1,600 per ton growers received for their 2015 crop. Much of that drop in price reflected pressure from a 7- month supply of unsold raisins remaining in processors' inventories at the start of the 2016, Barserian says. But, those stocks are dwindling and imports of raisins have slowed. As a result, he's expecting the market in California raisins to start turning around this year.

   So far this year, domestic shipments of raisins are up 4 percent and exports have risen 14 percent over last year. Also, the federal government has announced the purchase of 11,000 tons of raisins for school lunch and other food distribution programs to be shipped between May 15 and November 30 of this year.

   What's more, imports of raisins began dropping last year as packers started selling inventory when raisin prices dropped below both grower and packer costs, Barserian notes. In 2015 imports of raisins from Argentina, Chile and South Africa among a few of the importing countries totaled about 25,000 tons. That figure declined to 21,000 tons last year and continues to fall due to weather- related production shortfalls in Argentina and South Africa and attractive prices for table grapes in Chile that reduced the supply of green grapes available to make raisins.

  " California packers are looking to reduce their inventories from 158,000 tons on August 1, 2016, to less than 125,000 tons by August 1 this year, the start of the 2017-18 marketing year," Barserian says. "So the industry is closing in on the much more manageable 100,000 tons inventory, we like to have on hand prior to harvesting a new crop. Also, we're expecting total raisin production this year to be way below 300,000 tons. That should result in a better balance of supply and demand for the 2017 crop and better price for growers".

    Since August 1,2016, growers have delivered to rate, 271,000 tons of raisins to packers. Production of the Natural Seedless Raisin crop was estimated at 288,000 tons for the 2016-17 season. Meanwhile, the production base of California's raisins industry continues to shrink as growers respond to market prices and the increasing cost and decreasing availability of labor. From the year 2000,when acreage of bearing raisin-type grapes totaled 280,000, the number of bearing acres had dwindled to 165,000 by the end of 2016. "Last year, alone, 14,000 acres of raisin vines were taken out of production," Barserian says. " And a lot of additional acres have been pushed out and burned so far this year."

Article written by Greg Northcutt for Western Farm Press