YAKIMA, Wash. — Gala, Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp harvests are larger than anticipated, increasing chances the total Washington apple crop will exceed the 130.9 million, 40-pound boxes forecast in early August.
Prices of several varieties, except Red Delicious, are higher than a year ago, according to USDA tracking.
“It’s more likely the final harvested crop could exceed the August estimate. However, it’s also later than average and growers are acutely aware of the need to complete harvest before freezing temperatures cause damage,” said Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association in Yakima. “A lot of weather and labor factors can still affect the harvested total.”
Harvest began with Gala in mid-August and ends with Fuji, Cripps Pink and Granny Smith in early November. The crop is about half harvested, DeVaney said.
The association’s Oct. 1 storage report estimates the total Gala crop at 34.6 million boxes, up 5.1 million, or 17.5 percent, from the August forecast. Honeycrisp, at 12.4 million, is up 1.9 million boxes, or 18.7 percent; and Golden Delicious at 7.4 million boxes is up 500,000, or 7.6 percent.
The new estimates indicate this year’s Honeycrisp crop is 48.3 percent larger than last year’s, Gala is 10.6 percent larger and Golden Delicious is up 12.7 percent from last year.
As of Oct. 8, 9.2 million boxes of the new crop have been shipped versus 11.38 million boxes a year ago and 10.5 million two years ago. Shipments are lower because the crop is a week or two later than average this year, DeVaney said. The last two years it was earlier than average.
Washington apple prices are expected to stay stronger throughout this fall, winter and spring because of smaller crops in Europe, Mexico, Michigan and Canada.
On Oct. 6, the average asking price among Yakima and Wenatchee district shippers for extra fancy (standard grade), medium size 80 apples per box for Gala was $24 to $28 and $22 to $26 for 88s compared to $20 to $23.90 for both sizes a year ago.
Generally, $17 to $18 a box is break-even for growers on major varieties.
Desmond O’Rourke, world apple market analyst and retired Washington State University ag economist, has said he expects Gala to average $22 for the new season, up from $21.50 this past year.
Red Delicious is at $14 to $16 per box this year versus $24 to $26 a year ago. O’Rourke said that’s because there’s still 2016 Red Delicious to be sold and that the price should rebound to $20 once that’s gone.
Golden Delicious was $30 to $34 compared to $28 to $30.90 a year ago for 80s, and $30 to $34 versus $26 to $28.90 a year ago for 88s.
Granny Smith was $42 to $46 for 80s and $40 to $44 for 88s compared to $22 to $26.90 a year ago for 80s and 88s. The high price is an aberration caused by a temporary shortage, O’Rourke said.
Honeycrisps were was $70 to $76 for premium 80s and $65 to $75 for premium 88s, compared to $45 to $60.90 for 80s and 88s a year ago.
“There is a lot more discounting of Honeycrisp already at retail this season than in the past. The more reasonable price is around $60 a box,” O’Rourke said. “I’ll be looking to see if that can hold.”