(UPDATED COVERAGE, 2:59 p.m., Feb. 13) Washington apple shippers in early February had more than 72 million of the 76 million bushels of apples in storage, but still continue to break apple shipping records week after week.
The Feb. 1 total of apples in storage was 13% higher than the five-year average, according to the February Market News report from the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association.
Washington’s share of the total U.S. crop at this time is as large as Suzanne Wolter can remember.
“The east doesn’t have fruit, and we have more than we’ve ever had before,” said Wolter, marketing director for Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co.
Despite holdings being up 11% from last February, Wolter isn’t worried about not being able to ship the extra fruit. As of the week of Feb. 11, shipments were still going out at record paces, as they have been all year.
“There’s a tremendous amount of interest in the apple category,” she said.
Expected decreases in import apple deals also should help Washington keep its momentum heading into spring and summer, Wolter said. In Chile, for instance, production is expected to be 8% lower than last year, according to a recent forecast from the Brussels-based World Apple and Pear Association.
Through Jan. 31, about 56.5 million cartons of apples had been shipped from Washington, a record, said Charles Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association.
That’s about 44% of the total crop, almost exactly the same percentage as had shipped as of Jan. 31 the past two seasons, Pomianek said.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
Eleven of the top 18 volume weeks in Washington’s history have occurred this season, Pomianek said. The week ending Dec. 10, when 3.3 million boxes shipped from the state, was the best week ever. Movement wasn’t slowing much in the New Year.
Volumes of the five biggest apple varieties were up from last year, according to the USDA report.
Red delicious volumes rose from 25 million to 27.1 million bushels; fujis from 7.3 million to 12.1 million bushels; galas from 10.9 million to 12 million bushels; golden delicious from 7.7 million to 8.7 million bushels; and granny smiths from 7.76 million to 7.81 million bushels.
Rainier isn’t worried about moving the much higher fuji volumes for the duration of the 2012-13 season, Wolter said. High quality has kept fuji movement very brisk. The company expects to have storage fujis into the beginning of the 2013-14 season, but that’s not abnormal, she said.
By region, 73 million bushels had yet to be shipped from the Northwest as of Feb. 1. About 72.3 million of those are in Washington.
About 2.4 million bushels in the Northeast, 240,000 bushels in the Southeast and 70,000 bushels in the Midwest/Southwest were still in storage.