Washington's big crop helps ease apple "shortage" - The Packer

Washington's big crop helps ease apple "shortage"

10/09/2012 09:56:00 AM
Tom Karst

Promotions of apples by retailers are also off this year, according to the latest national fruit and vegetable retail report. In the Oct. 5 report, apples accounted for 29% of fruit ads, compared with 18% for grapes and 10% for pears. For the same week last year, apples accounted for 30% of fruit ads, followed by grapes with 17% and pears 11%.

Ad promotions for honeycrisp apples were active in 5,469 stores in the Oct. 5 report, with an average price of $2.43 per pound. Last year at the same time, honeycrisp apples were being promoted in 6,067 stores at an average of $2.11 per pound.

In the Midwest, the USDA reports retailer were promoting three-pound bags of red delicious apples in a range form $2.50 to $3.99 per bag, up from $1.69 to $2.99 per pound at the same time a year ago.

Prices are substantially up from a year ago; USDA reported the f.o.b. price for size 80s golden delicious in Washington were $28 to $30 per carton Oct. 9, up from $22 per carton at the same time a year ago.

The USDA reported average grower prices for U.S. apples in September this year totaled 61.2 cents per pound, up from 53.9 cents per pound in August and up from 42 cents per pound last September. Check out the USDA fruit outlook report here.

The good news for apple consumers is the big crop in Washington, which appears destined to set a record.

 Tim Smith, Wenatchee-based Washington State University extension plant pathologist and tree fruit specialist, told me Oct. 9 that every grower he has talked to has picked over their estimate, primarily gales, goldens and reds so far.

"It will easily be a record (crop)," Smith said.

After initial estimates called for a crop less than 110 million cartons, one shipper told me he now expects the fresh crop in Washington to be closer to 115 million to 117 million cartons, thanks largely to better than expected fruit size and condition.

The only downside is that apple pickers are in short supply, perhaps 20% to 30% shy of need, Smith said.

Washington's big supply of apples should ease the overall U.S. short supply and set up a memorable "perfect storm" for the apple sellers in the state.

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