Tarrifs and trade with Washington state

Fuji apples at the front end of a packing line at Valicoff Fruit Co. in Wapato, Wash., last October. From airplanes made by Boeing to apples, cherries and wheat grown by farmers, no other state is more dependent on international trade than Washington. As the tariff disputes escalate, small factories are closing and manufacturing behemoths like Boeing are increasingly worried about access to crucial Asian markets that have helped propel the state's booming economy.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Wholesale Washington apple prices rose slightly in April, particularly on varieties with a tightening supply, but remain below what the industry would like to see given the small 2018 crop.

The total fresh crop already sold and remaining in storage was estimated at 117.4 million, 40-pound boxes on May 1, down 295,000 from the 117.7 million estimated on April 1. Season-to-date (September through April) 79.9 million boxes or 68.1% of the crop had been sold compared to 69.5% on May 1 a year ago.

Inventory on hand was very close to the three-year average at 37.5 million boxes, said Desmond O’Rourke, retired Washington State University agricultural economist and world apple analyst.

Weekly movement is running at 2.3 million versus almost 3 million a year ago, he said.

“Prices are starting up but won’t makeup for low prices at the start of the season,” O’Rourke said. “Prices in general are substantially above last year, but still not as high as marketers would like for the size of the crop.”

Gala apples, September through April, are averaging $23.42 on conventional (excluding organic) of all sizes and grades, up from about $21 last year, O’Rourke said.

All varieties, including some proprietary ones, are $26.12, up from about $22 last year. Without Honeycrisp they average $23.35.

“Honeycrisp adds about $3 per box. That’s a huge factor. If you don’t have Honeycrisp, you’re getting a lower average price,” he said.

Tariffs and uncertainty regarding them are holding prices and exports down, O’Rourke said.

Brian Focht, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association in Wenatchee, has said pricing was damaged for months by competition from an abundant and low-priced table grape crop last fall. Prices also have been held down by competition among marketers to keep product moving domestically since less is going overseas, more than one marketer has said.

Average asking prices among Yakima and Wenatchee shippers for size 80 and 88 for standard grade Red Delicious was $15 to $18 as of May 13, down $1 from two months ago, according to USDA. Gala was $20 to $26, up $2 on the low end; Golden Delicious, $26 to $30 on 80s and $24 to $28 on 88s, up from $22 to $28 for both sizes two months ago.

Fuji was unchanged at $18 to $24. Honeycrisp was up $4 at $48 to $56.90. Granny Smith was $28 to $34, up $2 on the high end.

Exports are down 31.4% from a year ago with 21.3 million boxes exported as of April 30, said Todd Fryhover, Washington Apple Commission president.

Top markets down because of high tariffs: Mexico, 5.2 million boxes, down 27.3%.; India, 2.5 million, down 56.6%; and China, 713,000, down 39.1%. Canada is 2.7 million and Taiwan at 2.1 million.

Central Washington field reporter

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