Higher demand in U.S. could squeeze apple export markets

09/18/2012 04:42:00 PM
David Mitchell

Washington exported a record 35.9 million bushel cartons of apples in 2010-11, and as of Aug. 9 the state had exported 35.1 million bushel cartons with one reporting period remaining in the 2011-12 shipping season.

“We had record exports last year,” said Rebecca Lyons, export marketing director for the Washington Apple Commission. “We’re on track to meet or exceed that this year with a price structure that’s high.”

Prices are expected to remain higher than typical during the 2012-13 season due to short supplies in Michigan and New York.

“There will definitely be pressure on export sales from the increased domestic demand,” Lyons said. “However, I expect shippers with established export markets will continue to supply them. This will be a year when having established contacts will be critical.”

Lyons said she expects exporters to focus on supplying those established customers rather than going out and aggressively seeking new markets and customers.

“If we had 128 million boxes,” she said, “that would have been a great time to do that given the world situation.”

Despite increased domestic demand, Lyons said the commission still plans promotional programs in 26 foreign markets.

“The message is going to be different,” said Lyons, meaning the commission will be promoting quality rather than price. “We’re not aggressively trying to move volume like we would if it was 128 million.”

“Domestic or export, we have a responsibility to our loyal partners,” said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash. “Export demand has a tendency to move up and down ... It is a balancing act we perform every year.”



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