Sun-Maid Growers of California, the world’s largest marketer of raisins, held its 104th annual meeting Saturday, highlighting the cooperative’s net sales of $382 million.
Although the association’s net sales for the fiscal year, Aug. 1, 2015, through July 31, 2016, were a slight drop from the $384 million posted during the previous season, Sun-Maid president Barry Kriebel remained optimistic about the industry’s future.
“The California raisin industry, like agriculture generally, has experienced market fluctuations,” he said. “California raisin growers continue to be much better off since we eliminated the raisin industry reserve pool in 2010.”
Raisin growers have pushed for allowing the entire crop to be sold without restrictions and reserve pools, used for volume control.
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Sun-Maid Chairman Jeff Jue said the industry is working on appealing to health-conscious consumers and healthy food advocates.
“Raisins are naturally good to eat without added sugar, salt or fat,” Jue said. “Raisins are gluten free and non GMO. These are all important to consumers as part of their healthy diets.”
Jue said health research published last year shows the good health benefits of sun-dried raisins to lower weight, reduce the chances of having Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The Kingsburg-based cooperative also shared information with growers about the potential cost-savings of mechanical harvesting and new trellis systems designed to boost yields by up to 15 percent.
Among the industry’s challenges have been the availability of labor and the competition from higher-value crops like almonds.
Saturday’s meeting was held at the Fresno Convention Center’s Saroyan Theatre and attended by about 1,000 farmers, family members and guests.