( Courtesy Washington Apple Commission )

Gala will overtake red delicious this year as Washington’s top apple variety.

According to the Washington Apple Commission’s 2019 estimate, both varieties will gain on last year’s volume, but galas will increase by 16%, for a forecast total of 31.8 million 40-pound cartons, to grab the No. 1 spot from red delicious.

Reds will total 29.4 million cartons, or 4% more than last year’s 28.2 million, according to the estimate.

Fuji (17.7 million cartons), granny smith (17.3 million) and Honeycrisp (15 million) round out the top five apple varieties in Washington for the upcoming season. Honeycrisp volume is expected to jump 24% over last year’s 12.1 million boxes.

In all, Washington’s apple volume is forecast to come in at around 136 million cartons, compared to 116 million a year ago, according to the commission.

Some apple suppliers across the state say the crop could exceed number the commission quoted.

“The 2019 Washington apple crop looks very solid — not a lot of holes in it,” said Andy Tudor, vice president of business development with Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co. 

“Specific to Rainier, we plan on coming into market with aggressive and consistent promotion plans that are on brand and on message. Early momentum for the apple sales will be critical to move through this crop.”

Whatever the final statewide volume is, marketers are expecting plenty of fruit to market.

“The Washington apple industry is expecting a big crop in 2019-20,” said Brianna Shales, communications director with Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC. 

She said some estimates have forecast as much as 145 million to 150 million boxes.

“We shall see if that reality comes true in December, when the crop is all in. However, this is in contrast to last year’s crop, which was smaller than a normal crop and had further reduction as the crop was packed due to packouts,” Shales said. 

On Aug. 23, the U.S. Apple Association released an estimate of 165 million cartons for Washington apples, somewhat larger than the Washington commission's previous estimate.

There was a shortage of apples last year, Shales said.

“The industry does have a better mix of apples in this crop, with increases of organics, and that’s exciting for consumers,” Shales said. 

“Harvest timing is a tad behind ‘normal’ due to a late spring, but shouldn’t have a major effect on typical promotions.”

Weather conditions have aided this year’s crop during the growing season, said Karin Gardner, director of corporate communications with Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, which markets conventional and organic Jazz, Envy and Pacific Rose apples grown in Washington, as well as New Zealand.

“The Washington season is progressing very well,” Gardner said. “The summer has been fairly mild, with a mix of warm and cool temperatures resulting in good apple-growing weather.”

Jazz sizing appeared to be “typical or slightly smaller than average” in most areas, and Envy appeared to be “similar in size to the 2018 crop” by early August, Gardner said.

“We anticipate that the Jazz will start around Oct. 15, with the first Envy shipping about two weeks later, Gardner said. 

“This is fairly typical timing and will enable us to transition seamlessly with our customers from the current New Zealand season into the domestic crop.”

The outlook was similarly positive for apples that Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. will market, said John Long, director of L&M’s Union Gap, Wash., office. 

“Our weather this season, both during the spring bloom time and the summer months, has been very good,” Long said. 

“There was not much frost damage this spring and so far (knock on wood) we haven’t seen too much hail in the growing areas across the state.”  

Sizing remained a question mark at the end of July, Long said.

“At this time, we don’t think the apples are going as well as expected, and if we end up peaking on 88s to 113s rather than 72s to 88s, the smaller sizes will decrease the crop by at least 10%,” he said.

“We will have see what happens throughout the balance of the growing season before we really get a good handle on the sizing, but at this time we expect the apple size on the trees to be smaller than last season.”

On a positive note, Long said, it appeared that all apples in controlled-atmosphere storage from the 2018-19 crop will be gone by the end of September, “so there won’t be any real carryover between the two crops.”

In early August, Elgin, Minn.-based Honeybear Brands still had “carryover inventory” on many apple varieties, said Don Roper, vice president of sales and marketing.

On the positive side, Roper said there were “some great new varieties” available.

“Overall, we are improving the flavor profile of the apple category, and consumers are helping drive this change,” he said.

Chelan, Wash.-based grower-shipper Chelan Fresh had no adverse weather problems with its crop, said Kevin Stennes, organic sales manager.

“Great weather for this growing season — cool nights and moderate days should allow for great storage specifications,” he said. “Good anticipation coming into the new crop.”

Chelan Fresh sold about 1 million cases of organic apples last year, and it is anticipating a 20% increase this season, Stennes said.

“We shipped organics into July this season and expect the same for next season,” he said, noting that the upcoming season looked to be “on-time.”

Yakima, Wash.-based Sage Fruit Co. has experienced a “relatively mild summer” for its apple crop, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing.

However, a forecast of rising daytime temperatures for August was a point of some concern, Sinks said.

“Due to our prolonged winter in the Pacific Northwest, harvest will be slightly later than last year, but only be a few days,” he said. “The weather in the spring was ideal for promoting cell division, and the mild weather and cool nights of the summer have brought on good color of the fruit.”

Sizing looked good overall, Sinks said.

“This year we will have a sizeable crop with exceptional quality and excellent marketing potential,” he said. 

 
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