Export success lifts Washington apple market

09/16/2011 02:47:00 PM
Tom Karst

CHELAN, Wash. — Taking about a third of the Washington apple crop, exports are an essential element of the success story of apple marketers and growers.

With ample supplies of smaller fruit expected this year and a total crop that is expected to be from 105 million to 110 million cartons, exports should be strong again in 2011-12, said Tim Evans, general manager for Chelan Fresh.

The low U.S. dollar has propelled apple exports to record levels, with the traditional markets such as Canada and Mexico performing well in addition to red hot new markets such as India.

“Exports have been real good for apples this year,” said Charlie Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, Wenatchee.

“If it isn’t going to be a record, it will be very close,” he said.

By the end of July, Washington marketers had exported 35 million boxes of apples, just shy of the all time record of 36 million boxes.

Through the end of July, Washington had shipped about 9.2 million boxes to Mexico, just shy of the 9.9 million box record.

Rebecca Baerveldt, export marketing manager for the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, said the tight markets at the end of the 2010-11 season probably limited some export sales.

“I think the consensus is that we could be shipping more fruit overseas, but we just don’t have it,” she said in mid-August.

About a third of the Washington apple crop is shipped outside the borders of the U.S.

Baerveldt said the growth potential of export markets contrasts with the generally flat demand for apples in the domestic market.

As crop sizes increase, Baerveldt said, marketers need to find additional export markets.

The lower value of the U.S. dollar has primed the pumps for exports, she said.

What’s more, Baerveldt said exports have been buoyed by the emergence of two powerhouse apple importers — India and China.

Baerveldt said the Washington Apple Commission has export programs in 27 countries, with promotion programs focusing on the quality of Washington apples.

India

“We are running a campaign that highlights the healthy origin of Washington apples, a ‘nature-approved’ campaign. India has really expanded and has room to grow,” she said.

Though the market for direct shipments to India has been active for ten years, the recent growth of the middle class in that country has spurred sales for imported fruit, particularly for red delicious apples.

In addition to pent up demand from India’s middle class, Baerveldt said the rapidly developing retail sector has also caused competition for new produce items for consumers.


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