On the other hand, East Coast growers actually could benefit at the beginning of the deal if demand is lower than it was last year at the start of the deal, Forrence said.
“Last year started at $2-3 a pound, which was too high,” he said. “There could be a better starting price (this year).”
With New York and Pennsylvania volumes expected to be similar to last year, and a bumper crop expected out of Michigan, John Rice, president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., said export markets could be a more attractive option this year for Eastern shippers looking to move extra fruit.
However, the leftover apples from Washington won’t likely have as big an effect on demand as some first feared, Rice said.
“They say it’s ending in surprisingly good shape,” Rice said in early August. “The only big carryover is on granny smiths. It shouldn’t affect our business very much.”
The few granny smiths Rice Fruit grows go to processing, Rice said.
Rice reported good demand for his ginger golds at the beginning of the new-crop deal.
One thing to watch this season, Rice said, is whether retail prices will drop, mirroring the anticipated drop in f.o.b. prices compared to past years at the same time.
While f.o.b.s fell considerably in the first few months of 2009, retail prices did not, Rice said — not that consumers seemed to mind too much.
“The fact that they sold well at retail was encouraging,” he said.
But that disconnect between the price growers receive and the price retailers receive won’t likely last, Rice said.
“I think we’ll see f.o.b.s that will be lower than last year, at more traditional levels, and hopefully that will bring retail prices down,” he said. If that happens, the industry should be “in a good position to see good movement through fall on apples.”
Three-pound bags for less than $3 should be a winner in supermarkets this year, Rice said.
“At under $1 a pound, I think they’ll sell very well,” he said. “Apples are still a good value.”