Smoky haze in the Valley preventing proper development pace for raisin crop

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The smoky haze which has settled over the Valley is keeping the raisin crop from developing at a normal pace.

"I didn't know there'd be so much smoke," says Stan Morita. "Smoke is actually getting in the way of the sun, which is also slowing down the drying process for the raisins."

Morita has been busy turning his trays over to move the raisins around and make sure they were getting enough heat so they can properly dry.

"It's like grilling a steak," he said. "You've got to do both sides. We stopped turning as a regular process to save money but we do it when we need to."

Some grapes are just now being laid out to dry, so it may be an anxious wait for some Valley growers.

When the sun is out, its heat can turn a grape into a raisin within two weeks.

"The lower temps are hindering our drying time extremely," says Dwayne Cardoza with the Raisin Bargaining Association. "All that smoke, we haven't had very much sun."

Mold has become a concern for some of the raisins still drying.

Cardoza says this year, it will take a lot longer before growers can send their raisins to the processor.

"Dale, I really don't recall having that much product on the ground for that long of a period," he said.

All that wildfire smoke and ash in the air isn't a big concern to growers. They say workers have N95 masks available.

The raisins will also be washed at the processing plant.

Growers are especially worried about raisin grapes picked after Labor Day, especially since we're expected to see temperatures drop into the 80's soon.
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