As of June 21, the only domestic organic apples being shipped by Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC were golden delicious, and supplies of those were scarce, said Roger Pepperl, the company’s marketing director.
Stemilt had run out of all other domestic organic varieties, and from what Pepperl had heard, other Washington shippers were completely out.
The organic goldens Stemilt still had the week of June 18 were selling for about $40 per box, Pepperl said. Southern Hemisphere organic apples, meanwhile, were very scarce the week of June 18, fetching prices “well north of $50,” Pepperl said.
“They’re more expensive than usual for this time of year,” he said. “The crop is selling out fast.”
Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers shipped its last organic apples the first week of June, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager.
Sometimes, the company ships organics into July, Queen said.
“We ran short due to increased demand, which is a good thing,” he said.
Retailers have done a better job of showcasing and promoting organic apples in recent years, which has helped stimulate demand, Pepperl said.
But the short supples this year also can be traced to a slowdown in new acreage, he said.
The industry went through a period, Pepperl said, where acreage grew faster than demand. Now, the pendulum seems to have swung in the other direction.
Whether it will swing back remains to be seen, Queen said. Domex’s organic apple acreage, while still growing, has “stabilized” in the past two years.
“It’s not a switch you can turn on and off,” Queen said of the challenges of converting conventional to organic acreage, a three-year process.
Stemilt won’t have new-crop organic galas, the first variety to come off trees, until about the last week of August, Pepperl said.