Crop forecasts may go down, but growers still have to cope with higher costs, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.
That can be a struggle, especially in a year like 2012 in which a killing frost wiped out more than half of the state’s apple crop, he said.
“They’re going to be spending a lot more money to bring in a lot less apples this year,” he said.
Apples aren’t an automatic purchase, which is worrisome in a national economy that has been struggling since the stock market and real estate collapses of 2008, Allen said.
“Through our customers and consumers’ purchasing power, we found out two years ago that apples are not recession-proof, so regardless of the supply and demand, I think there’s going to be sensible marketing and sensible pricing,” Allen said.
An undersupplied market could exacerbate ongoing problems, Allen said.
“It’s going to be a demanding market, but as long as we can sustain movement, that’s OK,” he said.
If there are fewer apples in the pipeline, consumers could, and likely would, select another fruit, Allen said.
There won’t be as many large-scale retail promotions on apples, Allen said.
Tim Mansfield, sales and marketing director with Burt, N.Y.-based Sun Orchard Fruit Co., said the Eastern apple industry has weathered tough times before and will do so again.
Pricing has been higher and costs are increasing, but the market has responded well, Mansfield said.
The apple business has largely operated beyond the most harmful reaches of the recession, said John Rice, vice president of Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.
The health of the apple business has different metrics than the economy at large has, Rice said.
“Our cycles are determined much more so by weather and production than they are by the overall amount of money in the economy,” he said.
The Eastern apple region and other production areas have had their own dips, Rice said.
“The apple industry had off years during the 1990s when the rest of the country was having boom years,” he said.