Washington apple growers expect second-largest crop - The Packer

Washington apple growers expect second-largest crop

09/09/2013 09:23:00 AM
Tom Karst

Red delicious and fuji varieties are expected to be down compared with last year because of frost and poor pollination, said John Long, director of sales and operations in Union Gap for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.

While those varieties are down, he said volumes of gala, cameos and granny smith are up above last year’s level — primarily because of increased production levels.

Red delicious and fuji also should size larger than last year because of their lighter set on the trees. Other varieties are also sizing well, Long said, and there will be good volume of fruit from size 72s to 100s.

National perspective

The substantial Washington apple crop will be harvested in a year when Michigan and New York apple growers have rebounded in strong fashion from extremely short crops in 2012.

The total U.S. apple crop was estimated by the U.S. Apple Association at 243 million bushels, up 13% from 216 million bushels last year and 9% above the five-year average.

In 1975, 40 million cartons for the Washington fresh crop was the norm. Now industry leaders say industry can successfully market 130 million cartons or more.

Washington state’s share of the U.S. fresh apple crop has generally risen over the past 30 years, according to USDA production statistics.

In 1980, Washington accounted for 46% of the total U.S. fresh apple crop, rising to 59% in 1999, 69% in 2000 and 72% in 2010.

Despite record volumes, the 2012 Washington apple crop received strong f.o.b. pricing. The 2012-13 crop (September through August) received an average f.o.b. of $24.73 per carton, up from $22.64 per carton in 2011-12, according to the USDA.

Retail reception

Marketers expect retailers will feature Washington apples regularly.

U.S. retailers will be hard-pressed to minimize Washington fruit based on performance, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Yakima-based Domex Superfresh.

“Washington did a very good job of driving the category, driving dollars and volume and we will want to an opportunity to keep some of that shelf space,” he said. Bigger sizes from Washington the opportunity to market tray pack fruit in retail displays.

The early harvest season may allow Washington state to be aggressive early in the season, said Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan.

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