For coverage of the U.S. Apple Association's latest storage report, click here.
Apple shippers and officials from across the U.S. report continued brisk movement and strong markets, and sheds east of the Mississippi could be running out of product earlier than expected this summer.
Very strong export demand and strong domestic demand have spelled brisk movement for apples shipped by Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co. LLC, said Spencer Strong, the company’s sales director.
“Movement has been phenomenal on most varieties,” Strong said Jan. 10.
“We have a smaller crop than we’ve had in past years, export demand is higher and there’s a slicer market that’s put a floor on smaller fruit. A lot of good things are helping elevate the price this year.”
Fujis and pink ladies are the only two varieties not moving as well as Sage would like, Strong said. Chinese New Year demand is expected to give fujis a spike in January.
Markets for most varieties should remain stable through early March, then strengthen as shippers’ inventories start to tighten, Strong said.
On Jan. 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $22 for tray packs of red delicious from Washington, up from $17-18 last year at the same time.
Demand for Michigan-grown apples is so strong, some sheds could run out of product earlier than expected this summer, said Denise Donohue, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.
“People originally thought they’d ship through July, but they may be done a month sooner,” Donohue said. “People are having a very good marketing year in Michigan.”
One big reason for the brisk movement, Donohue said, can be traced to McDonald’s 2011 decision to put sliced apples in all of its Happy Meals.
“That’s really done more than I expected to shore up movement and prices,” she said.
As of early January, Michigan growers were still expecting to ship about 26 million boxes of apples in the 2011-12 season, similar to pre-season projections, Donohue said.
Michigan-grown jonagolds will be heavily promoted in January and February, as the committee sponsors a jonagold retail display contest, Donohue said.
Buyers also can expect promotable volumes of cortlands, fujis, galas, golden delicious, jonathans, macintoshes, red delicious and romes in the coming weeks, Donohue said Jan. 9.
Eastern apples are shipping at a similarly brisk pace this season, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.
“We’ve moved more than what was expected,” he said Jan. 9.
“(Supplies) are lower than normal for this time of year.”
As a result, prices could go up slightly as shippers try to slow movement to extend the New York season, Allen said. That said, many shippers may not want to tinker with what has been a successful deal thus far.
“The tendency is to move through the crop to ensure the best quality,” he said.
In addition to McDonald’s-driven demand, shippers were seeing stronger pull from other fast-food restaurants and from retailers, Allen said.
Empires in particular were in high demand for the fresh-cut market, he said.
By early January, Allen wouldn’t characterize as heavy supplies of any New York variety. Shippers were running short on mcintoshes, galas, red delicious and other varieties.