Europe is forecasting a record 12.6 million metric ton apple crop this fall, which means it will be increasingly competitive against Washington apples in the Middle East and Asia.
The forecast was released at the Prognosfruit Conference in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 9, attended by about 300 international apple and pear growers, according to a news release from the World Apple and Pear Association.
The forecast is up 36 percent over last year’s low crop of 9.25 million metric tons but is only up 3 percent over the 2014 to 2016 average. It is slightly above the record 12.5 million metric ton 2014 crop. Europe’s pear crop is predicted at 2.3 million metric tons, up 4 percent from 2017.
The increases are due to better climatic conditions across Europe with a mild winter, no late frost and limited impact of hail so far, the association said.
Apples will be strong in Poland at 4.5 million metric tons and more average in Italy and France. Last season’s stock is sold out so there will be strong demand in Europe on the fresh and processing side, the association said.
Drought and heat wave in several parts of Europe so far have had limited impact on the quality and fruit size. Markets are also complex given the continuing Russian embargo of Western produce and restrictions in the Mediterranean, the association said.
The 12.6 million fresh and processing metric ton forecast equates to 662 million, 42-pound boxes compared to a 131 million, 40-pound box Washington fresh forecast and a U.S. total fresh and processing likely to be about 280 million, 42-pound boxes, said Desmond O’Rourke, world apple market analyst and retired Washington State University agricultural economist, in Pullman, Wash.
Washington’s fresh crop equals 2.4 million metric tons and the U.S. fresh and processed is 5.3 million metric tons, he said.
“But you have to remember that the European population is well over 500 million people compared with our 320 million, so proportionally that makes U.S. and European crops more commensurate,” he said.
“But they have a huge crop and a lot of markets are very difficult. Russia is still closed to all of Europe and us,” O’Rourke said. “It hurts us in Asia and the Middle East, probably more in the Middle East. They can sell low-value product in there. They will be scrounging for markets so we’d better keep our promotions up.”
Washington exporters are concerned about tariffs in Mexico, India and China, all top Washington export markets, he said.
That makes the Middle East more important and Washington has been falling there in recent years due to the Russian embargo and before it, he said.
Washington exported 1.377 million boxes of apples into the United Arab Emirates from the 2017 crop as of the end of July, he said. It’s been 1.15 million into Saudi Arabia, 527,000 into Israel and 109,000 into Kuwait.
“”That’s more than 3 million boxes,” he said, “and in a tight year that could be very significant.”