(July 23) In a move aimed at stabilizing the industry, the Raisin Bargaining Association, Fresno, Calif., has established a three-year agreement on the price packers will pay growers. The agreement, unprecedented in length and its early conclusion, could mean higher prices for retailers.

The minimum price for thompson seedless raisins for 2008 was set at $1,310 per ton, said Glenn Goto, the association’s chief executive officer. Sliding scales will dictate prices the next two years. In 2009, the per-ton price will range from $1,123 to $1,723, while the range for 2010 will be $1,123 to $1,798.

A relatively small crop is forecast for 2007, Goto said. Last year’s volume was one of the smallest on record. This year’s forecast calls for an 11% increase.

The early agreement on the three-year pact indicates an improving relationship between packers and the association. In recent years, price negotiations have been marked by hostility and bitterness on both sides. In 2001, an arbitrator was called in to moderate a settlement in negotiations that lasted 12 months.