Labor shortage worries grape growers

FRESNO, Calif.

The sizzling sun's not welcome by people ready for fall but raisin growers don't mind the heat one bit.

Sanger grape grower David Sarabian said, "We are so happy. We love this weather. Bring it on. It's good."

Sarabian was glad to see the last of his Thompson seedless grapes being laid out to dry.

Several growers said it's been difficult this season to find workers with so many other crops being harvested.

"The labor's been tight this year," said Sarabian. "Growers are advertising to pay more per tray. There's almost like a bidding war to get workers to come to their fields."

Sarabian began his harvest back in August so he was able to secure a steady labor supply. Timing is everything when you're preparing a product for the market. He explained, "See these raisins here that have been in the sun, the darker raisin, that's a caramelized raisin." Caramelized raisins would be rejected by a packing house. "We'll just go ahead and roll it to protect from the sun and then the crew will come in take the whole trays and put them in the bin."

And once they're in the bin, Sarabian's raisins are given a good shaking to improve quality. "This is our cleaning process where we try to get the sand and debris out of the raisins."

The debris along with tiny raisins are quickly sorted out. The boxes quickly fill up and the raisins are ready to be taken to the packing house.

Sarabian said valley growers are getting a good price for their raisins, about $1600 a ton. That's up 100 bucks from a year ago.

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