Hailstorm dents Washington’s cushion for East, Midwest buyers - The Packer

Hailstorm dents Washington’s cushion for East, Midwest buyers

08/03/2012 05:46:00 AM
Tom Karst

Smith said damage to apple orchards ranges from zero damage in areas to orchards where trees were stripped of leaves and spurs. “There was some very serious damage, but that is limited acreage,” he said.

The hardest hit region was the mid- and lower- Yakima Valley, Smith said, and a growing region called the Royal Slope.

Washington state hailstorms typically are insignificant to the crop size, but the July 20 hailstorm will affect the outcome of the season, he said.

While packinghouses usually pack above grade, Smith said the hail may cause some packinghouses to pack to actual grade standards, and lower-grade fruit may have more value this year.

Buyers from Michigan have been asking about lower-grade apples in Washington, Kelly said. “Demand will be higher for the lower-end fruit, and that will benefit the Washington industry if we end up having more than normal low-end fruit,” he said.

Hail-grade fruit could find a home at some roadside stands, one industry observer said.

Beyond supplying retailers, Desmond O’Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., Pullman, Wash., said apple marketers in the East and Midwest are concerned about how they will supply alternative markets such as farmers markets. O’Rourke said it wouldn’t be good for a farmers market in Michigan to be without apples in October.

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