Mariani Packing Co. Puts Food Safety Top Priority

Mariani Served as Chair of the Safe Food Alliance

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Mariani Packing Company is one of the largest specialty crop growers and handlers in the state, packing many different types of fruit on a massive scale. California Ag Today recently spoke with Mark Mariani, executive chairman of the Mariani packing company in Vacaville and the outgoing chairman of the Safe Food Alliance (SFA), an organization specializing in food safety among growers, packers, and processers to maintain high standards of food safety and prevent consumer illness.

“Our four major specialty crops areas is that we’re the second largest cranberry growers (with operations back east) and packers, (with operations back east), and we also grow and pack mangoes out of Mexico, Mariani said. “And we are probably the third-largest raisin grower/packer in California. We also repack prunes for the world market.”

Mariani said that the products that they bring in from Mexico are held to the same standard as produce grown inside the United States. Consumers always look back at the supplier when it comes to food safety, so they ensure that standards meet or exceed the U.S. standards.

Mariani reflected on his part in the Safe Food Alliance organization.

“It’s an exciting time for DFA (which still stands as an entity as it’s being morphed into the Safe Food Alliance) because of the growth and the fact that it is offering so many more services to our members. We recognize that for us to move forward as an industry, we have to be better than anyone else and especially foreign competition,” he said. “And you do that because you can create trust, and I think there’s a solid brand with SFA ,if you’ve been approved and a member … that you are operating within the SFA conditions.”

As the former chairman of SFA, Mariani enjoyed working with passionate people.

“The individuals in the DFA and SFA are passionate people that want to do and exceed the expectations or their members. And most importantly, you want to provide safe food for consumers,” Mariani said.

The new Chair of Safe Food Alliance is Dane Lance, President and CEO of Sunsweet Growers, the world’s largest and most famous brand of dried tree fruits including prunes, apricots, and mangos.

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After Tough Negotiation, Raisin Price Decided

Raisin Price Set At $1650  Per Ton

 

More Thompson Seedless Vineyards To Be Pushed

 

The Raisin Bargaining Association (RBA) announced that it has reached agreement with its signatory packers on the 2013-14 Natural Seedless raisin harvest announced field price.  The price will be one thousand six hundred fifty dollars ($1,650.00) per ton or eighty-two and one half cents ($0.825) per pound.  The price is calculated using the following formula:

         Base price                                $1,457.00                      $0.7285

         Moisture @ 10%                             80.00                          .04

         Maturity @ 75%                              50.00                          .025

         Container rental                              21.00                          .0105

         Transportation (minimum)              15.00                           .0075

         RAC assessment                            14.00                          .007

         USDA inspection                            13.00                          .0065

         2013 Announced RBA field price     $1,650.00 per ton  $0.825 per lb.

Raisin growers have sent a strong message to the industry that they prefer selling raisins on a 100% basis now and into the future.  With that in mind, the Board of Directors of the Association worked diligently toward a compromise with their signatory packers to establish a fair price that reflects the additional California raisin production for this season. 

The Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) recently estimated the 2013 Natural Seedless raisin crop at 348,437 tons in comparison to deliveries of 311,090 tons last year.  The $1,650 per ton price for the 2013 Natural Seedless raisin crop is a 13% reduction to last year but takes into account the additional crop that is estimated for production as well as the challenging market conditions that the industry will be facing.

The agreement calls for growers to be paid in three installments this year as opposed to four installments last season.  65% of the payment will be due fifteen (15) days after completion of delivery, 20% will be due to growers on or before February 28, 2014, and the final 15% will be payable on or before April 30, 2014.

raisin character

In the past, grower reserve raisins generated funds to assist the industry in marketing additional production into world markets.  The effort to sell this year’s additional production without reserve programs and the temporary elimination of state marketing and promotion funding are two reasons why the RAC assessment of fourteen dollars ($14) per ton has been included in the pricing formula.  This will provide an opportunity for the industry to work together through the RAC in support of efforts to market 100% of each year’s crop without reserves.

As reported from the International Dried Grape Producing Countries Conference in October, there continue to be strong indicators that Turkey has a significantly smaller dried grape crop to market this coming season.  California and Turkey are the two largest producers of dried grapes in the world.  It was also reported that South Africa, Chile, and Argentina have suffered tremendous frost damage in their vineyards, which will severely limit their harvest, which begins in January. The ability to take full advantage of what appears to be a tremendous sales opportunity requires an announced field price.

The Raisin Bargaining Association Board of Directors understood the importance of establishing this important benchmark in a timely manner to sell the maximum amount of raisins this year.  However, they are also well aware of the impact it has on the grower community.  Labor, water, and energy costs have significantly increased for growers over the past twelve months further squeezing their bottom line margins.  As agricultural resources in California are depleted, vineyard owners will continue to seek the best utilization of their land. 

California Ag Today editors spoke with Steven Spate, an RBA Grower representative, and a raisin grower. He said: “We are witnessing a large amount of raisin grape vineyards being removed (between 8,000 and 15,000 acres) from production this year in favor of more mechanized and profitable crops such as almonds, walnuts, and citrus.” 

“Time will tell what impact this acreage reduction will have on the future of the California raisin industry but taking the necessary steps to market this year’s crop was extremely important for the Raisin Bargaining Association to accomplish.  We are now counting on the California raisin packers to sell this crop to provide a better future for the remaining growers in our industry,” Spate said.

Spate added that processors thought the price should have been lower, but growers generally thought that shortages in Turkey and other areas should have boosted the price. “But still, there are excess raisins on the market and it has created a downswing in price.

Growers who are pushing out vineyards say that the lower price is only one factor that is in play. Chronic labor shortages are also encouraging growers to plant a less labor-intensive crop.

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