But despite severe crop losses in Michigan and New York, shippers aren’t worried about running out of product before the end of the season, thanks in large part to big Washington and Pennsylvania crops.
Even with the normal holiday lull, Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., saw record movement in late December and early January, said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing.
Retailers have reported brisk movement and good returns throughout the season, Wolter said.
“There are still plenty of supplies to promote,” she said.
On Jan. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for cartons of fujis 64-88s from Washington, comparable to last year at the same time.
Wolter expected markets to remain fairly stable in the first weeks of the New Year, and Rainier is not overly worried about running out of fruit because of severe crop shortages in New York and Michigan.
For example, supplies of industry darling Honeycrisps should last into April or May, a typical end to the deal, Wolter said.
Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International, also isn’t worried about running out. On the contrary, the week of Jan. 7 he was anxiously waiting for demand to bounce back after a holiday slowdown.
“We need it — we’ve got a big crop,” he said. “The next three or four weeks will be very telling for how the next several months go.”
Eastern supplies were “pretty much cleaned up” by the first of the year, Mast said, paving the way for increased demand for Washington product east of the Mississippi.
Retailers looking to promote apples way want to pay particular attention to Washington-grown fujis for the duration of the season, Mast said.
“We have a lot of fujis — it’s one of the biggest increases over a year ago.”
East of the Mississippi, meanwhile, not all packing sheds were shuttered for the season heading into the New Year.
Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., is enjoying its biggest crop ever, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of marketing.
“We were fortunate,” Briggs said. “We ended up with a nice crop, quality and volume. And we’ve had very strong movement and prices have been strong from the get-go.”
Rice Fruit Co. expects to ship into early summer, a typical end to the deal.
Briggs reported a good mix of sizes for both tray pack and bagged promotions. For the remainder of the season, Rice Fruit expects fujis, red delicious and golden delicious to be its top three sellers.