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Washington shippers tighten apple flow

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Washington apple shippers are slowing sales to have enough fruit to last through summer and cover an anticipated late harvest in Michigan and New York.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Washington apple shippers are tightening the faucet a little to ensure supply as they enter the last quarter of sales of the 2013 crop.

“We do have a little pull back to have enough fruit to last the season. Most of that is normal. So prices are holding right in there and some varieties are cleaning up for the season,” said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association.

In the last decade, shippers have become adept at managing supply of the prior season’s crop to dovetail with new crop harvested from mid-August to early November. They work to avoid too much old crop carryover but need enough to keep retailers supplied.

Right now they’re factoring in that cold weather delayed apple blossoms in Michigan and New York and that this fall’s harvest there will be one to two weeks late, said Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association.

Washington shippers need enough apples to cover the slower startup in the East and tighten movement by keeping prices high, Grim said. Washington shippers will run out of organic apples at the end of May instead of the end of June, he said.

As of May 1, there’s 31 million boxes of Washington apples left in storage compared with 34.8 million a year ago and 28.4 million two years ago, Kelly said. But the 31 million is left on a 115.5-million-box 2013 crop while the 2012 crop was much larger, a record 128.8 million, and the 2011 crop was 108.7 million boxes.

Jonagold, Cameo, Honeycrisp and Braeburn are all within a few weeks of being sold out for the season and that’s normal, Kelly said.

Washington has 89 percent of what’s left of the nation’s 2013 crop, which also is normal, he said.

Imports, which take up the slack, are on track with where they’ve been the prior two years at 1.4 million as of May 3, he said. In 2009, imports reached 2.2 million by early May. Crop sizes and prices globally factor into how many Southern Hemisphere apples are imported into the U.S. with spring and summer usually being the heavy months.

“We’ve had a nice little plateau with them (Southern Hemisphere apples) in recent years which is good,” Kelly said.

As of May 1, 27.4 million boxes of Washington apples had been exported season-to-date compared with 29.8 million a year ago. A record 40.5 million boxes was exported from the large 2012 crop. The target is 37 million for the 2013 crop, Kelly said.

Except for Fuji and Honeycrisp, prices of the major varieties are running behind last year’s record prices but remain strong. Fuji prices are up because of better quality than a year ago and Honeycrisp is up due to demand, Kelly said.

Prices were high a year ago because the Midwest, East Coast, Canada, Europe and Mexico all experienced light crops, giving Washington’s record large crop unfettered sales.

Variety prices

Average season-to-date prices for 40-pound boxes as of May 3 compared with the prior two years:

Variety 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12

Red Delicious $17.85 $20.56 $18.29

Golden Delicious $20.63 $21.75 $19.85

Gala $24.48 $27.09 22.81

Granny Smith $22.97 $25.47 $21.32

Fuji $26.14 $21.93 22.37

Honeycrisp $59.49 58.39 47.55.


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