Diminishing demand for Californian Raisin
There’s enough supply to meet the demand for raisins grown within the 50-mile radius of Fresno, California. “Our 2016 production in September was excellent,” said Kalem Barserian, CEO of the Raisin Bargaining Association in California. Quality was also good and with the larger world supply Barserian says price has come down 31 per cent or roughly 0.25/lb. “That’s helped the movement domestically as well as exports. We’re seeing an increase in the domestic market by about four percent and the export market we’re up 10 percent.” The price has allowed California’s raisins to stay competitive with other producing countries like Turkey, Chile, Argentina and Australia. “We used to be about 50 percent of the world production. Now we’re about 25 percent. I’ve been in the raisin business for 52 years so I’ve seen quite a bit of change in the world situation.”
About 65 percent of California’s raisins are consumed domestically and one third is consumed in foreign markets, especially Japan. “They use 32,000 short tons a year for industrial products like raisin bread or raisin cookies,” he said.
Adequate water for 2017 season
Historically the production region gets very little rain during the August to October harvest season – most of the rain the area received came afterwards and with the snow melt. Growers can hope to receive lots of water for irrigation from the Sierras, and that, Barserian says, will give them adequate water for the 2017 season. While raisins, a semi-perishable crop, can be stored for up to two years, most supply clears out within 12 months.
Consumption has fallen
Remember those dancing California raisins? Well you’ve ‘heard it through the grapevine’ that it was a pretty powerful campaign – something he’s feeling a little wistful for. Consumption has fallen over the years. “Raisins haven’t really held their own because we haven’t been doing the advertising we’d done in the past.” Production hasn’t diminished but the number of growers has. Barserian explains that some growers switched their acreage to almonds since they are less labor intense.
Now that he has recently assumed the CEO position of the grower's union, he’s proposing to set up a commercial kitchen to boost the dried commodity. “I’m proposing to go back to what we did in the 80s when we started the Dancing Raisins and we had a commercial kitchen where we developed new products with raisins. It worked very successfully and we need to get back on track doing that again.”
For more information:
Raisin Bargaining Association
Publication date: 3/21/2017
Author: Nichola Watson
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