With apple marketers describing U.S. apple movement as “brisk,” estimates of Washington’s production continue to drop.
Washington growers could wind up shipping about 110 million boxes this season, down from earlier estimates of 113 million and, before that, 119 million boxes, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers.
As other regions start to wind down in the new year, markets should strengthen, Nager said.
“We expect to move forward in an orderly fashion,” he said. “So far we’ve seen good demand.”
Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Inc. is on track for a record crop this season, said Don Armock, chief executive officer.
Because of increased packing and storage space and longer shifts in the Michigan apple industry, Riveridge and other shippers haven’t had trouble managing the crop, Armock said.
“It seems to be handling like a smaller crop,” he said. “We managed to get it into storage and handled well.”
Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., also expects to ship record volumes of apples in the 2013-14 season, said John Rice, vice president.
“We’ve been shipping strongly all year,” Rice said. “We’re very pleased with our progress to date.”
Armock agreed, reporting a timely transition from cold storage to controlled-atmosphere fruit.
“We’ve had great movement to date,” he said. “Everybody’s pretty comfortable with (controlled-atmosphere) on most varieties.”
On Dec. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20-22 for carton tray packs of Washington galas 72-88s, down from $26 last year at the same time.
Armock expected markets to stay steady heading into the New Year. Riveridge was running ahead of schedule on its shipments of some varieties as of Dec. 10 because of brisk movement.
Quality has been very good throughout the season, both Rice and Armock said. Armock reported better packouts than normal, with very little frost or hail damage seen.
Washington’s large sizes have complemented smaller size profiles in other growing regions, Nager said.
In the first half of December, Rice Fruit was still shipping all varieties except Honeycrisps.
Rice Fruit is particularly well-stocked with red delicious this season, but Rice said the company has had no trouble moving them. Strong export demand from Latin America and other markets is moving a lot of red delicious this fall, he said.
For the winter holidays, the company was featuring its Kiku apples, with plans to ship into February. With trees planted six years ago still maturing, volumes of the variety are increasing every year, Rice said.
Rice Fruit expects to ship galas through March and red delicious, golden delicious, fujis and other varieties through July, making a seamless transition to August 2014 harvests, Rice said.
Typically, Rice Fruit wraps up its season by early summer.