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Apples continue good sales pace

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Imported apples aren't likely to be too much competition against domestic sales in the second half of the season, a Washington apple marketer says.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Halfway through the year-long sales season of Washington’s 2013 apple crop, movement and prices remain strong and a marketer says imports aren’t likely to detract from that.

Prospects for Chilean and New Zealand apples elsewhere in the global market appear good so they shouldn’t be competing significantly in the U.S., said Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing at Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee.

Southern Hemisphere apples pose a competitive challenge some years depending on their market needs and the quantity and quality of the U.S. crop. But the U.S. — predominately that from Washington — crop is good so most U.S. retailers “prefer domestic product and that slows down importers wanting to sell apples here,” Lutz said.

There used to be more need for imports in March and April as the Washington supply of Gala apples wound down, but now there’s enough Gala to go longer and imports aren’t needed until May and June.

As of March 1, midway through the season, Washington’s fresh apple crop stands at 114.7 million, 40-pound boxes, still the second largest crop on record next to the 2012 crop of 128.8 million boxes, said Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.

The crop is up more than 1 million boxes from December and January storage reports. That’s due to size and packout of good fruit versus cullage for juicing being better than anticipated, Mayer said.

Red Delicious accounts for 29.6 percent of the crop, Gala is 21.3 percent, Fuji 18.5 percent, Granny Smith 14.1 percent, Golden Delicious 8 percent, Honeycrisp 3.9 percent and Cripps Pink 3.1 percent, he said.

Despite increased competition this season from more normal East Coast, Midwest and Canadian crops, Washington had shipped 54.3 percent of its crop as of March 1 compared with 53.3 percent a year ago and 53.7 percent two years ago, Mayer said.

Good quality and lower prices help, he said. However, prices, while lower than last year’s record prices, remain higher for most varieties than two years ago and have rebounded slightly since January.

Some of the good prices and movement may be attributable to retention of market inroads made last year when East Coast, Midwest and Canadian crops were sharply down, Mayer said.

But Lutz said, “I don’t know if it’s that or the fact that we learned and retailers learned that consumers are willing to pay more for our products.

It’s good, he said, for the industry and retailers to remember that.

There’s a tendency to believe consumers only buy what’s cheapest, but that’s clearly not the case, he said, and it’s good for the industry and retailers to remember that.

Warehouses did a good job of moving fruit early that was of lesser quality due to last summer’s heat, Lutz said, leaving the best for the rest.

As of early March, Red Delicious were $17.58 per box wholesale versus $21.53 a year ago and $18.65 two years ago, Mayer said. Gala was $23.89 versus $26.86 a year ago and $22.90 two years ago. Fuji was $24.96, which was ahead of its $22.95 last year and $22.55 two years ago. Granny Smith was $22.91 versus $25.24 a year ago and $21.58 two years ago. Golden Delicious was $20.67 versus $22.59 a year ago and $20.47 two years ago. Like Granny, Honeycrisp was higher than the previous two years at $56.61 versus $56.54 last year and $47.17 two years ago. Cripps Pink was $30.34 versus $30.04 a year ago and $26.35 two years ago.


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