The Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association in June estimated the size of the Michigan apple crop at just under 3 million bushels, compared with output of close to 26 million bushel cartons in 2011-12. New York’s apple output was forecast at 15.4 million bushels by the Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association, down about half from the five-year average of just over 30 million bushels.
While the Washington apple crop may compensate for some of the shortfall in the Midwest and East, it won’t make up for all of it.
The Washington apple crop was estimated for 2012-13 at a record 145 million bushels, up from the five-year average of 128.5 million bushels.
Higher demand from processors could set a higher floor for the fresh market, with lower-grade apples worth more, said Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing Inc., Chelan, Wash.
He said there are reports of a couple of Michigan firms venturing to Washington and thinking about their needs for slicer apples.
“I think there is going to be a lot of wrangling before the season starts,” he said.
Smaller apples could be at a premium this year, given the dearth of fruit in Michigan, he said.
“In Washington, it could make the bag deal extremely strong as we get into December on,” Riggan said.
Jeremy Dygert, general manager of Champlain Valley Specialties, Keysville, N.Y., said shorter crops in Wayne County and other New York regions will make the fresh-cut apple processors’ job harder this year.
The firm tries to use New York state apples for business with schools in the state. The biggest New York variety they use for fresh-cut apple slices is the empire variety, which was hurt by frost this year.
“We are strongly looking at other varieties, but we haven’t determined what they are yet.”
The company also uses granny smiths and galas from the West Coast.
Dygert said there was some early panic in the market, but reports of Washington having a strong crop could help moderate expected higher prices.
“The biggest fear is that pricing goes so far out of line that consumers are no longer buying,” he said.
Casey Johnson, operations manager for Oxnard, Calif.-based Fresh Innovations, said the company is hopeful that commitments the company has with its suppliers will hold and only a small price increase may be necessary.