Optimal growing conditions have built the Eastern apple industry’s expectations for 2014 crop volumes at normal levels.
New York is forecasting a crop at slightly more than 30 million bushels — a slight decrease from the 32 million of 2013, according to the New York Apple Association.
The Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program anticipates a volume between 10 million and 11 million bushels. and Virginia expects to be in its normal 5.5 million-bushel range, according to the state’s department of agriculture.
“We’re anticipating another excellent crop and large yield this year,” said Julie Bancroft, executive director of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program.
The first early varieties were picked in mid-August and the deal got underway in earnest with ginger golds about a week later, Bancroft said.
New York’s crop was progressing “rapidly” en route to a mid-August start, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.
That, despite a rainy July in which the state averaged 8 inches for the month, Allen said.
Weather conditions were more cooperative in the earlier stages of the growing season, Allen said.
“We came back with a great bloom, and we had great pollination weather, coming off a great crop last year,” Allen said.
The summer moisture likely was the only obstacle to equaling the previous year’s volume, Allen said.
“We all had the feeling that if growing conditions continued as they were, it would be bigger,” he said.
The new deal got underway just as the last inventories of the 2013 were being shipped, Allen said.
“There are some who hang in for the full year,” he said.
As of Aug. 19, 18-kilogram carton tray packs of fuji apples from Chile were priced at $22-24 for size 70s, 80s and 90s and $20-22, 100s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A year earlier, the same product was $34-36 for size 64s, 70s, 80s and 90s; $30-32, 100s; and $26-28, 110s and 120s.
Lee Peters, sales and marketing director with Wolcott, N.Y.-based Fowler Bros. Inc., described the oncoming crop as “well-balanced,” compared to other years.
“Overall, volume should be about the same because bigger apples will fill the containers quicker,” he said.
Demand has been strong, which bodes well for the upcoming season, said Tim Mansfield, sales and marketing director with Burt, N.Y.-based Sun Orchard Fruit Co.
“We’re anticipating another good year for Eastern apple varieties,” he said.
Washington is expecting a big crop this year, at 140 million pounds. That should pose no threat, Mansfield said.
“Overall, we always manage to move a crop,” he said.
Lee Showalter, food safety manager and grower services for Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., said growers in his region expect, “essentially, a full crop,” although volumes of golden delicious — a major variety in Pennsylvania — may vary.
“Everything is developing well, sizing well,” he said, noting that the state had experienced no severe weather events.
The crop was running just a few days late, due to lingering cold from winter and a cool spring, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of marketing with Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.
But, she described the crop as ideal.
“We’ve had nice rainfall throughout summer, moderate temperatures,” she said.
There won’t be any volume records this year, but there will be plenty of fruit, especially in the fresh market, said David Benner, general manager of Fairfield, Pa.-based El Vista Orchards.
“A lot of our region has switched from processing to fresh-market apples, and our variety mix is changing; it’s not that overall volume is up,” he said.
Weather left some damage in Virginia over the winter, but the state’s apple crop still will approach 75-80% of a full crop, said Henry Chiles, owner of Charlottesville, Va.-based Crown Orchard Fruit Co.
“I think for the most part it’s going to be a real good,” he said.
There will be ample supplies, said Jaime Williams, president of Turkey Knob Apples Inc., Timberville, Va., the marketing arm of Bowman Fruit Sales LLC.
“It’s more of a typical season than last season, but last season was just a tremendous crop,” he said.