(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3:26 p.m., Nov. 15) A huge Washington apple crop — expected to be a record-breaker — is having little trouble making up for severe crop losses in Michigan and New York, though prices have been higher.
“We’ve more than made up for the shortfall in Michigan, New York and eastern Canada,” said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers. “Growers are picking 10% to 20% long, and we’ve had some of the best weather in years.”
Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc. stopped packing and shipping Nov. 13, said Don Armock, the company’s president.
Even before the company shopped shipping, however — from the beginning of the season, in fact — customers have been sourcing predominantly from Washington, Armock said.
“We’ve been (doing) fill-ins for the most part,” he said. “We haven’t had the volume to support promotions.”
Through about mid-spring, at the latest, Riveridge will buy mcintoshes and other regional varieties from eastern Canada, New York and other growing regions, Armock said.
Despite Michigan’s inability to promote this fall in Midwestern markets, Washington apples are on shevles in those markets.
“They’re not to the extent they would be if there was regional product available, and the prices are higher, but there have been significant ads throughout the fall,” Armock said.
According to the November Market News report from the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association, Washington still has plenty of fruit to ship.
Nearly 109 million bushels of U.S. fresh apples had yet to be shipped as of Nov. 1, 4% more than last year at the same time and 1% above the five-year average, according to the report.
But the large number of apples still in storage doesn’t mean shippers have been sitting on them for fear of running out later in the season.
The Washington industry, in fact, has already had several weeks this season where weekly volumes are at or near record levels, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International.
Mast credits new plantings in the past five to eight years for the big increase in Washington production this year. Orchards that used to have 800 to 1,000 trees per acre now have 1,400 to 1,800, he said.
Nager reported tremendous movement of apples thus far this fall, and he doesn’t see it slowing.
Through Nov. 10, 1.21 bilion pounds of apples had been shipped in the U.S. year-to-date, up from 1.09 billion last year at the same time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
About 644 million pounds had shipped from Washington, up from 494 million pounds last year.
Demand was strong and prices higher across the board for St. Louis-based retailer William A. Straub, said Greg Lehr, produce category specialist.
On average, prices in mid-November were about 50 cents per pound higher than the year before, Lehr said. And products including three-pound bags of Michigan jonathans were substantially higher.
But Lehr said he expects to have supplies of jonathans, mcintoshes, empires and other Midwestern and Eastern varieties at least through the end of the year.
“They’re still available, and I think they’ll be there for a little while,” he said. “The pricing has been the biggest difference.”
About 35 million bushels of red delicious had yet to be shipped on Nov. 1, up from 34 million last year at the same time, according to the U.S. Apple report.
Supplies of fresh-market galas, fujis and golden delicious also are up from 2011.
Gala volumes rose from 18 million to 20.6 million bushels, fujis from 11.8 million to 15.5 million bushels and golden delicious from 11.3 million to 12.3 million bushels.
Granny smith holdings fell slightly, from 11.6 million bushels on Nov. 1, 2011, to 11.5 million bushels this year.