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Russian ban hurts Washington apples

Dan Wheat
Loss of Russia as an export market puts the squeeze on the Washington apple industry to find other buyers for about $12 million worth of apples.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Washington apple industry is losing about $12 million worth of business as Russia bans U.S. apples and other agricultural products for one year.

Russia announced Aug. 7 that it is banning imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruits and vegetables from the U.S., the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway for one year in response to sanctions imposed on it by the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

“Anytime we have a market close, it’s obviously bad news,” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee.

That is accentuated this year as Washington anticipates a record large apple crop.

“We were rebuilding there this past season after a devaluation of the ruble and we had a lot of hope for Russia this year. This deal by Mr. Putin (Russian President Vladimir Putin) changes the ball game completely,” Fryhover said.

Washington normally ships apples to Russia from November into April. This past season was 598,028, 40-pound boxes. That was up from 376,377 in 2012. The peak was 921,558 in 2007, Fryhover said.

“Our goal was to grow the market 10 percent this season,” he said.

The loss is roughly 600,000 boxes at $20 per box for $12 million, he said.

Russia has been good for volume and because it’s one of few markets which prefers large-sized apples, he said. Russia has taken a lot of Red and Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.

Poland is a main competitor of apples to Russia but also is shut out, Fryhover noted.

The Washington Apple Commission and shippers will look at the impact on the European Union and “how that affects us in other markets,” he said.



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