Good news for apple lovers - The Packer

Good news for apple lovers

10/26/2012 11:29:00 AM
Andy Nelson

My plan this fall was to buy a bushel or two of granny smiths, can them (check that: have someone’s grandma teach me how to can, then can them) and then, next summer, enjoy a good laugh when I’m the only kid on the block still eating apples.

Andy Nelson, Markets EditorI can’t live without my grannies, so when I heard this summer that Michigan’s 2012-13 crop would be 85% lighter and New York’s 52% lighter because of devastating late spring freezes, I started to worry.

Not many Michigan and New York apples make it to my grocery store in suburban Kansas City, but I figured if Washington shippers had to supply the whole country beginning in, oh, January, they’d be spread pretty thin by summer 2013 — if not sooner.

As the summer progressed, the news just got worse.

After a July 20 hailstorm, Washington’s crop estimate fell from 120 million to 109 million boxes.

Then came bad news from abroad. Europe was expected to be down. Ditto for the Southern Hemisphere. Would every single apple consumed in the entire world in 2013 be grown in the Yakima and Wenatchee valleys!?

Made me think I might have to start unscrewing those jars of preserved grannies around Easter.

Now it’s October and, alas, Mother Nature has made me look like a panicky fool. Apple-geddon, it seems, will have to wait for another season.

Some growers I talked to recently said that 109 million bushel estimate now could wind up being closer to 130 million.

That’s right: not just back to the original, pre-hail estimate, but back and with another 10 million tacked on.

Back on track

What happened? Washington growers got into their orchards this fall and quickly came to the realization that, man, these are some big apples.

“Volumes are up, and it’s all related to size,” Steve Reisenauer, sales manager of Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., said.

“Supplies will be a little bit tighter (next summer), but there will be supplies.”

Braeburns, jonagolds and other varieties will likely run out next spring, Reisenauer said, but that’s not out of the ordinary even in a normal year.

As for galas, fujis, red delicious and — yes! — granny smiths, “I see numbers to keep supplies good through the course of the year.”

Meanwhile, drivers on the interstates and highways of Washington who don’t like sharing the road with trucks may want to hibernate for awhile.

There were roughly 700-900 more trucks on Washington roads in mid-October than at the same time a year ago, Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., said.

And that was before Eastern and upper Midwestern markets ran out of locally grown fruit. When they do, likely around the first of the year, that truck traffic will only get more intense, as demand for Washington fruit skyrockets.

“Right now, I’d say we’ll have strong supplies into next spring, and we continue to hope we’ll have supplies of the five mainline varieties all summer,” Nager said.

Produce managers needn’t worry about sticking apples at the back of the department on a small display, Nager said. Superfresh Growers, at least, expects to have ample supplies for promotions through spring.

We apple lovers can rest easy. Maybe instead of canning, I’ll take up crochet.

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