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New York shipping apples at record levels

by Lora Abcarian | January 18, 2010
Estimates issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this past October indicated that the state of New York would have an estimated apple crop of 1.29 million pounds. That figure translates to 32.3 million 40-pound bushels for the Empire State.

"New York easily met that estimate," said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association. "The crop finished off nicely. In fact, it finished off well. We have a very manageable inventory and supply."

In early January, Mr. Allen said that shipments for this year's crop were 138 percent ahead of movement for the same time last season. "Movement is at record levels," he said. "A lot of product was packed quickly and moved into the marketplace."

Product quality for the current season is very high. "Consumers are being delighted [with New York apples]," he commented. "They come back again and again." Pricing at retail has been affordable, and Mr. Allen expects to see price stabilization during January. "Washington is the price setter for the industry," he noted.

According to Mr. Allen, 49,000 acres are planted with apples in New York. Fifty-four percent of the apple volume is marketed as fresh, with the balance going to processing. Last season's crop was skewed to process due to hail damage, but "the processing market is depressed this year" due to an abundance of Chinese imports, he said. "We're putting our future in fresh."

Weather this season was conducive to good production. "We had warm, sunny days and cool nights," Mr. Allen said. "We had a wet growing season. The apples sized up well."

The harvest began the second week of August 2009 and finished in November. A host of apple varieties is produced including volume leaders such as Red Delicious, McIntosh and Empire. "New varieties come and go," he said. "The mainstay varieties are still holding strong."

He continued, "Red Delicious is still number one in the world. Gala is the fastest-growing variety worldwide."

The popularity of these varieties, especially Red Delicious, is significant for New York producers. "Another good thing: exports are up," Mr. Allen said. New York exports to the United Kingdom, Canada and Latin America. And export markets are strengthening in India, Malaysia and Russia. The emergence of a middle class in these countries has been a positive factor. "India has the largest middle class in the world," Mr. Allen said.

(For more on national winter apples, see the Jan. 18, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)