Washington's apple output heavy in 'lite' year

08/10/2012 09:43:00 AM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstThe apple cart is upset, but apple growers with fruit are pleased.

The August crop production report is found here, with the first USDA apple forecast of the year. The USDA's take on apple production is a forecast of 8.06 billion pounds (192 million bushels), down 14% from the 9.42 billion pound (224 million bushel) crop of a year ago.

From the summary, a quick look at the jaw-dropping production shortfall in the East and Midwest:

Production in the Eastern States (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia) is forecast at 1.60 billion pounds, down 31 percent from last year.

Production in the Central States (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) is forecast at 252 million pounds, a decrease of 79 percent from last year.

Down 79%? Ouch.

To me, it doesn't seem the full impact of the hail storm has been factored into the agency's estimate on Washington. For example, the text of the report doesn't even mention hail. From the USDA:

Production in the Western States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) is forecast at 6.21 billion pounds, up 6 percent from last year. Washington growers experienced a relatively normal growing season, without losses from freezes or frost, and with good pollination weather. Production in Oregon is up from last year, contrary to the typical alternate bearing pattern.

Put in context, the government estimates Washington's 2012 crop at 5.7 billion pounds (136 million 42-pound cartons), a whopping 70% of U.S. production.

At 5.7 billion pounds, Washington state production would be up better than 5% from last year's output of 5.4 billion pounds (129  million bushels)  last year. Last year, Washington state accounted for "just" 57% of U.S. apple output.

With 70% of U.S. apple output in one state this year, what happens in Washington state from now until harvest ends will be of interest to all apple buyers sellers in the world.

Has apple production become too Washington-centric? If so, is there anything to do about it?

Those are questions for another day.

The apple cart upset 2012 season also is highlighted by the introduction of a futures market contract for apple juice concentrate at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. What an exciting time for a futures contract to be launched - a day after the USDA crop report and days before the U.S. Apple Association estimate. Hold on to your seats; it may be a bumpy ride.


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Denise Donohue    
Lansing, Michigan  |  August, 10, 2012 at 06:47 PM

Youch! Fruit numbers are 'way down. Which, of course, will have some pull up on prices. Interesting concept: Are apples too Washington-centric?

Mayra Viana    
Brazil  |  August, 11, 2012 at 07:09 PM

In some Brazilian supermarkets, pears are also a bargain this year compared to apples. And we import the former.

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