Early rain causing problems with Valley raisins


Valley raisin grapes late to mature are still drying in the sun. Raisin dehydrating plant owner Gino Lamanuzzi said last week's storm caused sand and mold issues. Lamanuzzi explained, "The problem is the green berries underneath here could contaminate the rest of the bunches on the tray."

Some Valley raisin grapes full of dirt and gnats are taken to places like the Simone Fruit Company to be reconditioned. Here the grapes are washed in hot water before undergoing a good pressure wash. During a steam bath the grapes are shaken to remove sand, leaves and other debris.

Mauro Simone expected his company to be very busy over the next four months. Simone said, "When we have embedded sand and mold and moisture we run it through an auger type transferring method from out of those hot tanks where it twirls them in something similar to a washing machine."

The cleaned up grapes get sorted and separated onto trays. Once they're stacked, they are placed in 140-degree heat tunnels to become raisins. Simone said, "Drying time could be anywhere from 12, 14 hours to as much as 24 hours depending on how much moisture in the raisins or grapes."

Lamanuzzi said local growers are competing for limited drying space. It costs between $150 and $250 dollars a ton to have raisins washed and dehydrated. Lamanuzzi said, "It's an extra expense for the grower but we're saving his crop. It's a very expensive crop this year."

The highest quality raisins are fetching a record price - $1700 a ton.

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