Raisin farmer Kuldip Chatha said it seemed like more than a thunderstorm that dumped buckets of rain on his crop Monday night.
“It felt like Hurricane Irma had moved from Florida to here,” Chatha said. “It was raining so hard, you could barely see.”
And while rain is generally a good thing for farmers, it isn’t for raisins.
This time of year, raisin grapes are placed on paper trays in the field to be dried by late-summer heat into raisins. Any moisture can damage the crop by embedding dirt and sand into the wrinkles of the drying fruit, or creating the potential for mold.
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Fresno County is the No. 1 grower of raisins in the nation and one of the largest suppliers in the world.
When Monday’s storm hit, it was brief but heavy. The National Weather Service reported a few hundredths of an inch to possibly a quarter of an inch fell.
But as any raisin farmer knows, it doesn’t take a lot to wreck a crop.
“It is just a mess out there,” said Kalem Barserian, chief executive officer of the Raisin Bargaining Association, a grower group based in Fresno.
Barserian estimates about 75 percent of the industry has crop insurance.
On Tuesday, Chatha was surveying damage to his crop near Chestnut and Floral avenues, west of Selma. He has 32 acres of raisins that were on the ground, drying.
“Luckily we have insurance, but it does not cover everything,” Chatha said. “I am hoping most of our crop can be salvaged, but it is going to take a few days to see how bad it is.”