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Washington apple crop shrinks

This fall's Washington apple crop has shrunk from its Aug. 1 forecast, which is good in a market more crowded than last year's.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on November 15, 2013 8:08AM

Last changed on November 15, 2013 8:09AM

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Washington’s 2013 apple crop estimate has shrunk from its Aug. 1 forecast and that’s a good thing, industry sources say, since there’s more competition this year from larger crops elsewhere.

The Nov. 1 storage report by the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and the Yakima Valley Grower-Shippers Association pegs the fresh-pack crop at 113.2 million, 40-pound boxes. That’s down 6 percent from the Aug. 1 forecast and down almost 12 percent from last year’s record 128.2 million boxes.

However, this year’s crop remains the second largest on record.

The new figure is based on what’s been picked and shipped between August and Nov. 1 and estimates of how much went into storage and will be good enough for packing over the next 11 months and how many apples remained to be picked in November.

The total number is down simply because the crop picked out less than growers and fieldmen thought it would in August, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.

Movement — the pace of sales shipments — is good but not as good as a year ago and it doesn’t have to be, Kelly said. Prices are lower but still good, he said.

As of Nov. 1, 17.1 million boxes of new crop had been shipped, leaving 96 million boxes in storage, compared with 19 million shipped and 109 million left in storage a year ago, he said. Two years ago, the numbers were 14 million and 94 million. Weekly shipments have been above 2 million and should stay at that level or higher into April or May, peaking at around 3 million in December and January, he said.

“We’re in good shape on movement,” Kelly said.

The Clearing House no longer releases the average price of all varieties because some in the industry note it is skewed upward by Honeycrisp, a high-priced variety.

The average, season-to-date price as of Nov. 5, is below last year for each of the top five volume varieties, Kelly said.

Red Delicious is $17.99 a box versus $23.37 a year ago and $20.33 two years ago. Gala is $24.24 versus $26.80 and $23.07. Honeycrisp is $57.87 versus $55.61 and $47.36.

“These aren’t the best prices like last year but still pretty good,” Kelly said. “I think they will remain fairly stable.”

Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association, called prices and movement “decent” and said prices should remain so, given the good sales pace. Price should strengthen in January because East Coast supply will diminish, he said.

Packouts won’t be as good as last year so the crop will probably be less than 113.2 million boxes, he said. That can be attributed to more quality issues from extreme heat in early September, Grim said. Bitter pit increased and in varieties like Gala where it normally is not seen and there was lenticel darkening and delayed stemble cracking on Gala, he said.

Fruit is larger, which plays well to the domestic market, Grim said.

“We could use a few more small-size to fuel export shipments,” he said. “We can probably export most all of our small fruit and not compete with the East Coast in the bag (small fruit) market.”

Mexico has a large crop so Washington exports there will be lighter until February, he said.


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