WENATCHEE, Wash. — Record apple crops in New York and Michigan and increases in Canada and Mexico present the Washington apple industry with challenges for the 2013-2014 marketing season, industry sources say.
The 2013 national crop — fresh and processing fruit — was forecast at 243.3 million boxes at the U.S. Apple Association’s annual outlook conference Aug. 22-23 at Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. That’s an increase of 13 percent from 2012 and 9 percent above the five-year average.
“Since two-thirds of Washington’s production stays in the U.S., the biggest impact is the increase in Michigan and New York coming back with larger than normal crops,” said Rebecca Lyons, export marketing manager of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee.
New York, second to Washington in apple production, is forecast at 32 million boxes of fresh and processed apples, 15 percent above its five-year average. Michigan, traditionally third in production, is forecast at 30 million boxes, 85 percent above its five-year average.
Both were down dramatically in the 2012 season — New York at 17.1 million and Michigan at 2.7 million boxes — because of severe freezes. Washington capitalized on that and was able to sell 90 million fresh boxes domestically when it normally does about 75 million. Washington had a record 128.7 million-box 2012 fresh crop and expects 119.8 million this year — 140 million when processing apples are added.
With a larger national crop, Washington needs to export about 10 million more boxes than it normally does, Todd Fryhover, the state’s apple commission president, has said.
“We’re operating that way,” Lyons said. “We’re allocating more resources for promotions in Southeast Asia, which we have targeted as a growth area.”
Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association and president of the Washington State Horticultural Association, both in Wenatchee, said marketers will be working hard to maintain gains they made in the East and Midwest last season, banking on consumers liking Washington apples.
But with more apples in the fresh and process markets, prices are likely to drop in both categories, the challenge is how much, he said.
At the outlook conference, Mexican apple production was forecast at 29 million boxes, up 53 percent or 10 million boxes from its norm. Canada is at 22.6 million boxes, up 15 percent from its five-year average, Europe is expected to be up 7 percent, China down 2.6 percent and Argentina, Brazil and Chile about the same as last season, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.
The large Mexican crop makes Washington shippers nervous because it will impact Washington sales to Mexico, particularly Golden Delicious, Lyons said. But the Mexican crop sells through low-end, domestic markets and there isn’t a lot of controlled-atmosphere storage, so Washington sales there still should be good in winter, she said.
Mexico will be under pressure to sell cheap and strong because they don’t have enough bins for 29 million boxes, Kelly said.
“I think the U.S. crop is a manageable number,” Kelly said. “It’s about the 12th largest crop, so it’s not way at the top.”
Other West Coast forecasts at the outlook conference: California, 4.8 million boxes, down 32 percent from its five-year average; Oregon, 2.6 million, down 16 percent: Idaho, 1 million, down 35 percent.