FRESNO, Calif. — In August, with an outsized and early Washington apple crop looming just ahead of them, California growers needed to move their fruit quickly or risk getting undercut on price.
Many in the state’s apple industry were confident they’d do just that, but a few doubts lingered.
“We are running 10-14 days ahead of schedule,” Alex Ott, executive director of the Fresno-based California Apple Commission, said Aug. 1.
“We started picking apples July 14. It’s a very fast season for us this year, which is great because we want to get in and get out before Washington starts.”
Galas kicked off the California apple deal, with granny smiths and fujis next in line for summer and cripps pink for fall.
“We want to stay out in front of this apple deal,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner in Crown Jewels Produce. “We’re thankful to be early because the Northwest will be early as well. That leaves us a window to get in and get a lot of our fruit picked, packed and mostly shipped before they get going.”
Crown Jewels markets apples for Greene & Hemly.
Stockton-based Primavera Marketing Inc. began packing galas around July 20. It ships about 650,000 boxes yearly, the bulk of the state’s production. Fujis there started close to Aug. 18, granny smiths on Aug. 25 and cripps pink will arrive in mid-October.
Rich Sambado, sales manager at Primavera, braced for the impact of Washington.
“I’m concerned that our window is not going to be as wide open and we’re going to overlap a considerable amount with Washington.”
He had similar worries last year that did not materialize.
“The unknown is always a worry,” he said. “The risk this time could be more significant.”
“The California industry isn’t a giant,” Doug Hemly, owner at Courtland-based Greene & Hemly, said July 28. “As long as everybody stays in their market window it works for everybody.”
Besides galas, Primavera Marketing typically produces about 400,000 boxes of granny smith, 200,000 or so of fuji, and 75,000 of cripps pink. It accounts for a large portion of the statewide volume on each variety.
“Our biggest concern is water,” Ott said.
“If we could make it rain that would be fantastic, but we also have to look at the long-term water goals in terms of storage and producing additional water capacity for both growers and local communities.”