(Aug. 25) CHICAGO — The apple industry should expect to see stronger prices and decreased production and exports this season, says Jim Cranney, vice president of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association.

At the association’s Outlook 2006 conference Aug. 17-18, Cranney said growers would welcome the apple prices, which come on the heels of historically strong prices in the past season.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the final 2005 season average price for all apple sales was 19.4 cents per pound. That’s a 22% increase from 2004’s average price of 15.9 cents per pound. The 2005 season average price was more than 1 cent per pound higher than the five-year average price of 18.2 cents per pound, Cranney said.

Just as domestic prices have increased, Cranney said fresh apple export prices should rise. From 2004 to 2005, export value increased from $427.4 million to $528.7 million.

Because of diminished production, the association said it expects fresh apple exports to decrease this year by 7.5%, to 33 million bushels. Last year, the U.S. exported 35.7 million bushels.

As for domestic production, on Aug. 11 the USDA forecast production of 229 million bushels — a 2% decrease from last year’s 234.9 million bushels.

The association made a more conservative domestic production estimate — 221.2 million bushels, or a 6% drop from last year’s crop.

U.S. Apple estimated this year’s production will be 2% higher than the five-year average, Cranney said. At that level, the 2006 crop would be the 16th-largest U.S. apple crop in history, Cranney said. The 2005 crop was the 13th-largest, Cranney said.

Of the total production, the association estimated that 92 million bushels would reach the fresh market, Cranney said. That’s an 8% decrease from last year’s 100 million-bushel fresh market crop, Cranney said.

“So excess supply should not be an issue,” Cranney said. “Consumer demand has been phenomenal, and storage supplies are very low.”

Washington state’s fresh crop should prove lighter than in the past several years, Cranney said. Hailstorms decimated major portions of the crop, he said. The state’s red and golden delicious production should drop, while gala, fuji and granny smith production should increase, according to the association.

Red delicious still dominates U.S. apple production, but red and golden delicious production is decreasing, Cranney said. The association estimated that red delicious will decrease by 9%, to 60.1 million bushels. Golden delicious will decrease by 10%, to 27.6 million bushels.

Strong prices, smaller fruit mark apple outlook
Thomas Wahl, director of the International Marketing Programs for Agricultural Commodities and Trade Center at Washington State University, Pullman, talks about changes in the Chinese apple industry Aug. 18 at the U.S. Apple Association Outlook 2006 conference in Chicago.