WENATCHEE, Wash. — Washington has good opportunity for strong apple shipments domestically and overseas this season, Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, says.
“We really hold all the cards a little earlier than normal,” Fryhover told commissioners at a Dec. 14 meeting in Wenatchee.
Fryhover noted that as of Dec. 1, Washington has 85 percent of the remaining available U.S. fresh apple crop to be sold in the next eight or nine months versus New York at 4.9 percent, Michigan at 3.2 percent and Pennsylvania at 1.2 percent. Those U.S. Apple Association numbers show Washington in a stronger position about four to six weeks earlier than usual, he said.
Michigan had a smaller crop this fall therefore creating greater East Coast demand for Washington apples a little earlier, Fryhover said.
While the 2017 Washington fresh crop is large, at 142.3-million, 40-pound boxes, the situation is better than 2014, the last crop of that size, because of smaller fruit size, smaller crops elsewhere and no work slowdowns at West Coast seaports, he said.
“I’m optimistic about domestic and export sales. I’m not referencing pricing, just sales movement and volume,” he said.
The World Apple and Pear Association shows European apple production at 9.2 million metric tons, down 22 percent this year, Fryhover said. That gives Washington less European competition and greater opportunity for exports to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, he said.
China is normally a 10-million-box export into India but is shut out of India on political issues giving Washington greater opportunity in India, he said.
Fryhover provided commissioners with USDA Foreign Agricultural Service numbers showing 2017-2018 total world fresh apple production at 76.2 million metric tons. Of that, China is 44.5 million, the European Union 10 million and the U.S. 4.6 million. Turkey is 2.7 million and India is 2.3 million.
China consumes 38.4 million metric tons and exports 1.2 million. The European Union exports 1 million and the U.S. exports 890,000 metric tons.
Poland won’t be a major fresh market competitor this season because it is heavy into processed rather than fresh apples and its crop is down 29 percent from last year at 2.8 million metric tons, Fryhover said.
Italy is at 1.6 million metric tons, down 26 percent, and it talking about taking care of Italy first, then the rest of Europe and very little export beyond that, he said.
France will remain a competitor in some markets at 1.4 million metric tons, down 6 percent, he said.
Rebecca Lyons, the commission’s export marketing director, reported on her recent trip into second-tier cities in China, visiting seven cities in 10 days.
“Second tier doesn’t mean small. One is 30 million people and the smallest is 8 million, so there’s a huge population there,” Lyons said.
She met with importers, wholesalers and retailers. She said she was surprised by China’s improvement in packaging and high-end fruit going to high-end markets.
“Chilean cherries are hitting the market in a big way and will impact us there this Christmas season,” she said. “It will be a challenging year in China.”
She said some early season Washington Gala apples did not arrive in good shape in China causing importers to pull back.
Fryhover said while China is a top target market for Washington apples that competition is keen.
“It’s a very crowded market. Everyone is looking to China to be their savior whether its avocados or other fruit,” he said.