A worker grades Honeycrisp apples at Frusan's packing plant in Chile.
A worker grades Honeycrisp apples at Frusan's packing plant in Chile.

A smaller apple size profile in Chile is driving demand for larger New Zealand fruit this season.

Because of limitations on large galas out of Chile, New Zealand galas 100s and larger imported by Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group were fetching $40 a box and up the week of April 21, said David Nelley, Oppy’s apple pear and cherry category director.

And those markets will likely strengthen as summer nears, Nelley said.

With the exception of Jazz apples later in the import deal, almost all of the New Zealand fruit Oppy is importing this season is 100s and larger.

In addition to strong import gala demand, New Zealand braeburns were getting a lot of attention, particularly from Midwestern retailers, in the second half of April, Nelley said.

Imports were down overall as of mid-April, and apples from Chile’s Northern growing regions are much smaller than normal, said Casey Collins, director of business development for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash.

Some varieties in the north were reported to be peaking at three sizes smaller than usual, Collins said. That will likely affect how much Chilean fruit makes it to North America.

“The U.S. is geared toward larger fruit,” he said. “Asia and the U.K. are more likely to take smaller apples.”

Fruit in southern Chile, however, should be closer to normal, Collins said. And it should be a banner year for quality on fruit from all regions.

“All indications are the quality is extremely good,” he said. “Good color, good internal condition.”

On April 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $30-32 for 18-kilogram carton tray packs of galas 70-80s from Chile, comparable to last year at the same time.

Honeycrisps grown in Chile by Frusan and marketed in the U.S. by Honeybear Marketing, a division of Elgin, Minn.-based Wescott Agri Product Inc., will be a size or a size and a half smaller than normal, said Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing.

But that’s only partly due to weather, Roper said. The other reason is young trees maturing and bearing more fruit. Honeybear expects big volume increases in the next several seasons out of Chile. Volumes two years from now could be double what they are in 2014, Roper said.

Honeybear began shipping Chilean Honeycrisps in the U.S. the week of April 21, Roper said. The company expects to have fruit into June.

Wescott Agri Product was wrapping up its Washington Honeycrisp deal in the second half of April, and Roper expected a seamless transition to Chile, with no gaps expected.

Roper said prices should stay fairly consistent as Washington yields to Chile.

About half of Oppy’s New Zealand apple program is dedicated to Jazz apples, which should begin shipping in North America in late May or early June. As trees mature, the company continues to see larger volumes of Jazz and another newer variety, Envy, which should kick off in June.

Oppy plans to offer both Jazz and Envy through September, Nelley said.

A very heavy bloom this season should offset any apple losses incurred by Mother Nature this season, Collins said. Chile was plagued with freezes early and drought later in the deal.

Chelan Fresh will stick with domestic apples as long as it can, with Chilean fruit not expected until this summer, Collins said.