Prices high, but not breaking records, for this time of year

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

WENATCHEE, Wash. -- The latest estimate of Washington's 2011 fresh apple crop now stands at 104.3 million, 40-pound boxes, up from 101.7 million a month ago.

The increase is due to more fruit in a late harvest being picked in November than projected, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.

The increase, still less than the 109.3-million-box record 2010 crop, won't have any significant impact on the market, Kelly said.

"It gives marketers a better planning tool and it's right in line with the averages of the last five years," he said.

Movement and prices are strong and should remain so, he said.

As of Nov. 27, 23.8 billion boxes of the new crop had been shipped season-to-date (since September) versus 24.4 million a year ago and 26.9 million two years ago, he said. But this year's late harvest skews that, he said.

"If we added two more weeks to make up for the lateness, we would be close or a little ahead of movement of the last two years," he said.

The average season-to-date wholesale price of all varieties was $24.07 on Nov. 27 compared with $20.72 a year ago and $18.86 two years ago, he said.

Prices are high but not the highest ever for this time of year, he said.

Prices traditionally decline through the year-long sales season but may not much given the strong sales, Kelly said.

Record one-month sales were being set a year ago, but Kelly said that's unlikely to happen this season, given a smaller crop.

Exports are strong at 7.2 million boxes as of Nov. 27 compared with 7.7 million last year and 7.8 million two years ago, he said.

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