Industry approaches halfway point as strong sales continue
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- January was another strong month for Washington apple sales but fell shy of another record.
A total of 11.478 million 40-pound boxes of apples were shipped in January, barely behind the 11.495 million in December but ahead of the 11.208 million in November, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.
November was the industry record. Now December is the record.
Kelly and other industry sources have said the strong movement is fueled by smaller East Coast and European crops.
He said he expects shipments to remain above normal even when Southern Hemisphere fruit enters the global market in another month.
Washington packouts continue to be better than expected, so the 2010 fresh apple crop is now estimated at 107.3 million boxes as of Feb. 1.
Packouts won't continue to improve that much more, Kelly said. The 2010 crop probably will end next September still below the 2008 all-time record of 108.3 million boxes.
The season halfway point will occur this month. As of Feb. 1, 48.2 million boxes had been shipped and 58.9 are in storage.
That compares with 47.9 million shipped and 54.8 left in storage a year ago on a smaller crop and 46.1 million versus 62.1 million two years ago on a larger crop, Kelly said.
Wal-Mart is looking for lower-priced produce to sell more fruits and vegetables. That helps movement in the short term but may negatively impact prices down the road, Kelly said.
As of Jan. 29, the average price of all varieties of Washington apples remained high at $20.04 per box versus $18.52 a year ago and $19.85 two years ago, he said.