Apple packing

Fuji apples at the front end of a packing line at Valicoff Fruit Co. in Wapato, Wash. Tree fruit and nut growers are awaiting details of the new U.S.-Japan trade agreement.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Washington Apple Commission wants to continue industry crop projections but will ask the Washington State Tree Fruit Association to considering doing them.

Three years ago, as part of updating its export promotion strategic plan, the commission collected apple production and export volumes from tree fruit companies to examine sales trends and make sure the commission’s export promotions aligned with industry needs. Individual company information was not shared but collective results were, confirming the commission’s view of Asia as the prime export target and also helping individual company planning.

Crop volumes, by variety and whether they were organic or conventional, were projected five years out from 2016 through 2020.

At its March 28 meeting, the commission agreed the information was useful and that the effort should continue.

“I think it’s important for the health of the industry for this information to be gathered. It helps limit under and over production. I think someone should do it every year,” said James Foreman, manager of Foreman Fruit Co. in Wenatchee.

He recommended acreage removal by variety be added.

“I think it’s good information and we need to start working closer together than ever before,” said Jim Thomas, vice president of Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers in Wenatchee.

Michael Roche, owner of Roche Fruit LLC in Yakima, said WSTFA should do the survey but not five years out because that gets too hard to predict. An alternative of three years was mentioned.

Miles Kohl, CEO of Allan Brothers in Naches, said WSTFA is better suited to do the survey if it’s done year after year.

Todd Fryhover, commission president, agreed and said he will talk to WSTFA President Jon DeVaney about it.

Bob Mast, president of Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee, said it may be more challenging to collect the information with out-of-state investment firms now involved in company ownerships.

“But I agree with Jimmy (Thomas), we can’t keep rowing our own boats or we may be bailing pretty soon. We need to work together more closely in the Northwest because the Midwest is growing more fruit and more varieties and going more fresh market,” Mast said.

Cass Gebbers, president and CEO of Gebbers Farms in Brewster, commended Fryhover for convincing some companies to participate three years ago that otherwise would not have. It should be easier this time because the ice has been broken and results were well received, Gebbers said.

The 2016 projection of that year’s total crop was 0.35% greater than the actual amount. The 2016 projection of the 2017 crop was 7% over and the 2016 projection of the 2018 crop was 23.5% over.

Contacted later, DeVaney said he will discuss it with his board in a couple of weeks. If there is industry interest it probably would fit with WSTFA’s data collection and reporting functions, he said. The association does an annual crop forecast in August and issues monthly reports on crop sales, pricing and inventory.

Central Washington field reporter

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