WENATCHEE, Wash. — An early estimate of the 2015 national apple crop shows it down 3.2 percent from the large 2014 crop which may help recovery of wholesale prices and grower returns.

Total U.S. fresh and processed production was estimated at 259.5 million, 42-pound boxes at the Premier Apple Cooperative meeting in Syracuse, N.Y., on June 22 and 23.

Of that, Washington was estimated at 165 million boxes, down 5.3 percent. New York was 27.5 million, down 9.1 percent. Michigan was 24 million, up .8 percent and Pennsylvania up 1 percent at 11.5 million boxes. Virginia was up 7.1 percent at 5 million and California up .4 at 5.5 million.

“I’m optimistic we’ll see a better marketing year and better grower returns,” said Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association in Wenatchee.

“We’ll probably see a return to survivable pricing levels. It’s a recipe for a more successful selling season,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce, Sparta, Mich.

A huge 2014 Washington crop depressed apple prices nationwide. “When you guys have a cold in the West, we have pneumonia out here (Michigan),” Armock said of pricing.

However, he said Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples did relatively well price-wise through the season, given the size of the crop. Red and Golden Delicious were the standouts of poorer prices, he said.

If a normal 18 percent processing volume is subtracted from the Washington total, the Washington fresh crop is about 135 million, which is down from the 140.6 million of 2014 that was 155 million last November.

The big concern with the Washington crop now is heat, Grim said. Several days of 100-degree weather around June 9 and more of the same forecast for the end of June and early July is likely to affect size and quality, he said.

“We normally don’t think of sunburn issues (on apples) until August. This is kind of uncharted territory to have this much heat this early,” Grim said.

Howard Nager, vice president of marketing at Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, said Gingergold harvest will start the last week of July and Gala the first week of August.

“Heat is definitely having an impact on apples. We might end up at 120 million to 130 million boxes (because of heat),” he said after first saying the crop could reach 140 million boxes.

The New York apple crop projection is down 9 percent mainly due to spring frost along Lake Ontario and in western New York, Armock said.

Michigan had very little frost damage other than about a 40 percent reduction in the Traverse City area, he said.

Michigan growers are concerned that early Washington Gala and Honeycrisp promotions could be greater competition against Midwest varieties, he said.

Michigan harvest starts at the end of August with Paula Red and Gingergold. Michigan Gala and Honeycrisp will start in early September a month behind Washington.

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