Washington apple growers expect second-largest crop - The Packer

Washington apple growers expect second-largest crop

09/09/2013 09:23:00 AM
Tom Karst

Courtesy Stemilt Growers, LLCWashington apples are packed at Stemilt Growers.WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Washington fresh apple crop should fall short of the record 2012 crop but still represent the second-largest volume on record, most industry observers believe.

Harvest timing is about a week earlier than last year. Marketers said sizing generally should be good, heavy to 72s and 88s for many varieties. Labor supply should be adequate this fall, but weather events that would shorten the season could change that.

Marketers attending the U.S. Apple Association’s Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference on Aug. 22-23 in Chicago put the fresh crop in Washington at about 120 million cartons, short of the 129 million box crop from 2012. The total Washington apple crop, including processing apples, was put at 140 million bushels, down from the 155 million bushels in 2012 but 4% higher than five-year average.

Better-than-expected yields last year in new apple plantings saw crop expectations grow from about 109 million cartons early in the season to nearly 130 million cartons after all the fruit was under cover.

New apple orchards are planted at 1,200 to 1,400 trees per acre, which has pushed production levels to 80-90 bins of fruit per acre, said Mike Nicholson, salesman for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee.

Historically, the normal yield would have been closer to 50-60 bins per acres.

“That’s what took people by surprise last year,” he said.

There is a little bit less acreage in the state now than 10 years ago — 167,489 acres in 2011 compared to 192,000 in 2011 — but much of it is high density, Nicholson said.

Before the season started, industry guesses about the 2013 fresh crop typically ranged from 115 million to 125 million cartons, with some higher and some lower projections.

Apples had good cell division at the beginning of the year, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Stemilt Growers LLC.

Pepperl said it is possible the crop will be shorter than the trade believes.

“Big crops get bigger, and small crops get smaller,” he said.

Fruit size should be good, said Steve Reisenauer, sales manager for Sage Fruit, Yakima.

“We’ve had some hail damage in certain districts that will shorten the crop, but we had very good weather at bloom and post bloom, so we expect fruit size to be good, which adds to the crop size,” Reisenauer said.

Marketers said this year’s crop has shown varying yield trends, depending on variety.

Pink Lady, Honeycrisp and galas may be up, while reds and fujis may see the biggest declines compared with a year ago, Reisenauer said. All the other varieties may be slightly down.

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