If the weather holds, the harvest should be completed by early October, said Glen Goto, chief executive officer of the Fresno-based Raisin Bargaining Association, which negotiates raisin prices with packers.
This year’s crop will be the smallest in recent years, Goto said, with estimates ranging from 12% to 25% less than 2011.
In the past decade, the raisin industry has dropped from almost 300,000 acres to 200,000 acres, he said, because of a combination of factors.
A lot of acres are being converted from vineyards to almond, pistachio and walnut orchards or citrus groves, he said.
Raisins have also traditionally been labor-intensive, with grape bunches picked by hand and laid on the ground in paper trays to dry in the sun.
The industry also faces pressure from the wine industry’s demand for grapes to crush for juice.
Last year’s price ended up at $265 per green ton of grape, Goto said, while this year started at $300 and soon climbed to $325.
He hoped his association’s offer to raise prices to processors by several hundred dollars would help stop the flow of product to the wineries.