WENATCHEE, Wash. — Record Washington apple exports in the 2008-09 market season should be followed by another strong year in 2009-10.

With a 2009 Washington fresh crop size of 107 million cartons estimated as of late August, the overall crop is off 2% from 2008’s total 109 million fresh boxes.
“We will have plenty of fruit for all of our markets overseas,” said Rebecca Baerveldt, export marketing manager for the Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee.

While fruit size should peak on sizes somewhat larger than some markets prefer in 2009, the ample crop should present a range of options for buyers in global markets. Larger sizes should provide renewed interest for Washington fruit in Russia, where consumers prefer big fruit. Shipments to Russia totaled about 515,000 cartons in 2008-09, down from about double that level the previous season.

Export shipments for the 2009 crop may back off a bit from what was a historic 2008-09 marketing season.

The past season featured plenty of small red delicious — 100s and smaller, Baerveldt said.

This years, sizes may peak on 88s and 80s, sizes that are coveted by U.S. retailers.
Small fruit sizes common in the 2008 crop served many markets in Latin America and Asia well, she said.

Total Washington exports for the 2008-09 season topped 35 million cartons, up 23% over the previous year’s total of 28.6 million cartons.

Based on 109 million cartons shipped in 2008-09, exports accounted for about one third of the state’s total fresh shipments.

Mexico is the No. 1 market for Washington apples, accounting for over 10 million boxes through mid-August. Canada ranks second, with well over 5 million cartons shipped to America’s northern neighbor.

Those two markets also will be key drivers in 2009-10, she said.

Baerveldt said she was heartened by Mexico’s strength this year, considering exchange-rate volatility last fall unsettled traders.

“We’ve had sizing and prices that have been good for the Mexican market,” she said.
Red delicious is still by far the most important export variety, Baerveldt said.

Reds delicious account for up to 45% of Washington exports, she said.
Gala is the No. 2 export variety and accounts for about 16% of total export shipments through mid-August.

“That reflects the production increase we have seen in Washington state the last year, as well as its general popularity,” she said.

Mexico is the top importer of galas, where it is a strong third behind reds and goldens. Exporters still have to pay 47% duties for reds and goldens because of an antidumping tariff, which is another reason that galas have surged in popularity there. Marketers are waiting on a North American Free Trade Agreement dispute resolution panel to rule on the legality of the tariff at any time.

Granny smith apples have also increased in Mexico, gaining 36% in season-to-date shipments there through mid-July.

“It nice to see market development in Mexico paying off for granny smith,” Baerveldt said.