It’s said records are made to be broken, but maybe not as quickly as is likely to happen for Thompson seedless and other raisin-type grapes for crushing and raisins for San Joaquin Valley grape growers this season.
Last season’s record prices are to be broken after only one year because:
• Shipments continue to increase.
• Vineyards continue to be removed in favor of growing almonds.
• The crop is down 18 percent.
Add it all up and it spells green Thompson prices of at least $300 per ton and raisin prices somewhere in the $1,800 to $2,000 per ton range based on that green price. Both would shatter year-old records if realized.
Last year growers received $1,700 per ton for raisins and at least $265 for green Thompsons/raisin type grapes.
The $300 per ton green prices was floated last March at the Raisin Bargaining Association annual meeting by RBA president Monte Schultz of Caruthers, Calif. Nat Dibuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers, says now that that is the minimum he is looking for, shooting for a final price as high as $350 per ton.
Even with record prices, Natural Seedless shipments are up 1 percent over last year. Based on estimated shipments for the marketing year, the disappearance of Natural Seedless should be very close to 330,000 raw tons.
However, raisin type vineyards continue to be removed in favor of growing almonds which still receives more money per acre than raisins.
USDA-NASS estimates the bearing acreage at 200,000 acres down from 205,000 acres in 2011. About 180,000 acres of that is Thompson seedless, by far the largest acreage variety in the state. By comparison there are 95,000 acres of Chardonnay and 80,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in the state. The remainder of the Natural Seedless grape varieties are Black Corinth, Divine, Fiesta, Negritude Black, Selma Pete and Sultana.
Thompsons are utilized for concentrate, brandy and wine — as well as some for canning.
To get an idea of the crop size, the three farmer co-operatives made early season crop estimates;
• Raisin Bargaining Association estimate: 38 bunches last year and 31 bunches per vine this year, down 21 percent.
• Sun Maid estimate: 39 bunches last year and 32 bunches per vine this year or down 18 percent.
• Allied Grape Growers estimate: 38 bunches last year and 26 bunches per vine this year, down 32 percent.
Last year’s crop was one of the biggest green crops in history at 11.25 tons per acre. This season’s crop is expected to be down 18 percent to 9.25 tons.
Barring any weather related damage a crop of a little less than 300,000 tons of raisins is expected. This should be enough to meet market demand for raisins since many growers do not want to sell to the wineries at any price because they do not want a harvesting machine tearing up their vineyard, many of which are old.