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Washington apple volume predicted to be up this season

by Lora Abcarian | September 14, 2010
Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, said that apple volume for the state of Washington for the 2010- 11 crop will be up slightly this season. During 2009-10, a total of 102.8 million 40-pound-equivalent boxes were shipped. The first estimate for the 2010-11 crop was released Aug. 11, with volume for the season expected to be 108.8 million 40-pound boxes. According to Mr. DeVaney, estimate variations fall within a 1-5 percent margin.

The initial estimate was released following a survey of the state's apple packers. Although Mr. DeVaney expects the estimated volume will trend downward slightly as the season progresses, he said, "There is a lot of fruit on the tree, and a lot will be available for the box."

“The [distribution] through the top varieties shows a well spread-out manifest,” said Charles Pomianek, director of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association. “We’re in good shape.”

Spring weather in Washington was damp and cool. “It put us behind on growth, pollination and sizing,” said Mr. DeVaney.

Hail fell sporadically in various parts of the state while sparing others before the August estimate was released. Mr. Pomianek said that there are no reports of substantial hail damage to the crop. “There appears to be some russeting on some varieties,” he stated. “Packers are encouraging some sorting in the field.”

The cooler weather is expected to reduce the overall apple size profile by as much as one size.

“It looks like it’s going to be a little smaller size for apples,” Mr. Pomianek went on to say. “The guys are working really hard here to get a good crop out.”

On Aug. 27, Mr. DeVaney said that temperatures in Washington were warm. “If the warmth continues, it could boost sizing,” he told The Produce News.

Washington is the nation’s No. 1 apple producer. The August numbers revealed the following with regard to volume by variety: Red Delicious, 35.4 million boxes; Golden Delicious, 11.2 million boxes; Granny Smith, 14,350 boxes; Fuji, 14,675 boxes; and Gala, 20,650 boxes.

Volume for Honeycrisp continues to grow. According to Mr. DeVaney, specific data on Honeycrisp volume is expected to be broken out when estimates are released for the 2011-12 crop.

The boost in Washington’s apple volume is well timed. “Washington is up this year,” Mr. DeVaney stated. “But the nationwide apple crop will be down this year. There is no indication of overproduction.”

Two-thirds of all Washington apples are produced in the Yakima growing district, and the other third comes from the Wenatchee Valley growing district. Total growing acreage in Washington is trending downward, but this is not bad news.

“As we switch to the more dense plantings, we’ve seen production go up and acreage go down,” Mr. DeVaney explained. “Volume over time is showing a steady increase.”

Mr. Pomianek said the transition from old-crop to new-crop fruit is expected to be orderly. “We will realistically have the same carryover as we did in 2008,” he said. Old-crop Galas had already cleaned up as new-crop Galas came into production. “Golden Delicious left in storage is absolutely minimal,” he said on Aug. 27. “They should be cleaned up by the end of August.”

Washington typically exports one-third of its apple crop. A slower economic recovery in the United States is being outpaced by faster economic recovery in foreign markets. “This has made apples attractive in some countries,” Mr. DeVaney commented.