Smaller raisin crop expected this season in the Valley

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The annual harvest brings relief to growers. Crews get the grapes onto trays and in about two weeks the sun will turn grapes into raisins. (KFSN)

These past few years the Valley's ag landscape has changed. Many raisin grape vineyards have been pulled out and replaced by profitable crops like almonds and mandarin oranges, but raisin growers remain optimistic.

The annual harvest brings relief to growers. Crews get the grapes onto trays and in about two weeks the sun will turn grapes into raisins. But growers like Stan Morita of Biola must always anxiously wait for their paycheck.

"Last year I delivered a crop in September and I wasn't paid for it, and the price wasn't decided until February of this year."

Steve Spate of the Raisin Bargaining Association said negotiations over price take time.

"We definitely hope to get this done by the first part of November in the October time frame."

Crop size is a factor-- raisin grape acreage is down 10-percent from a year ago, but that doesn't guarantee a better price than the $1,600 a ton growers received last year. The industry still has a surplus from last year's crop which hasn't been sold.

"The problem is we're not the only producers worldwide," said Spate.

In fact, raisins from Turkey have made their way onto store shelves at Walmart. So the challenges continue to stack up for raisin growers. They include uncertainty over labor, water, and regulations.

"I think most of the growers that I know who are in the raisin industry are just trying to stay in business, keep their head above water," said Morita.

Morita still uses bins his late father bought on a farm started by his grandparents in 1918. Their memory strengthens Stan's resolve.

"My grandparents didn't speak English. They couldn't become citizens, they couldn't buy property, and there was a time they were sent back and interned during World War II."

Morita looks back at their struggles whenever he feels anxious about the ag industry. But Stan said he's too busy making raisins to think about his farming future.
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