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Washington apple volume up slightly from previous season

by Lora Abcarian | January 02, 2011
Revised estimates for Washington's 2010-11 apple crop were released last month, and the state is expected to move 105.3 million boxes of apples, up slightly from the previous season when 102.7 million boxes were shipped.

"We have a crop that is very similar to last year," said Charles Pomianek, director of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association.

“This estimate tends to change a bit over the course of the season as we get more information on packouts,” added Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

A breakdown by variety and number of boxes estimated to be shipped shows Red Delicious at 31.4 million; Golden Delicious, 11.1 million; Granny Smith, 13.1 million; Fuji, 14.1 million; Gala, 21.5 million; Cameo, 750,000; Cripps Pink, 2.9 million; Jonagold, 1.1 million; Braeburn, 3.4 million; and Honeycrisp, 3 million. The balance of the crop is filled with other apple varieties.

“We did have unseasonably wet and cool weather in the spring, and some hail later in the season, which resulted in some losses,” Mr. DeVaney noted. “However, as we had the potential for an even larger crop, this allowed fruit with cosmetic damage to be sent to processor while still having a crop that is larger overall than last year with a good mix of sizes.

“For the week ending December 19, we show 32,747,000 boxes shipped or 31 percent of the indicated crop as of Dec. 1,” Mr. DeVaney added. “Given that our harvest was delayed by about two weeks, we are showing excellent movement. November was a record month for Washington apple shipments, with 11.2 million boxes sold.”

Mr. Pomianek said that the state’s producers have had two good back-to- back seasons, and have done a good job playing “catch-up” following this season’s delayed harvest. “We are plus or minus a week on all movements,” he told The Produce News in mid-December. “We have had just fantastic movement.”

While apple volumes between the two crop years are relatively similar, Mr. Pomianek said the 2010-11 season will be characterized by smaller sizing. “Last year, we had a good amount of large apples,” he stated, adding that 72s and larger sizes comprised 36 percent of 2009-10 crop. This season, he said that larger sizes are expected to account for 20 percent of the crop in comparison. For 2010-11, apples are peaking on 80s, 88s and 100s.

According to Mr. DeVaney, the latest data about apple acreage were compiled in the 2007 Census of Agriculture, which placed land in apple production at 165,215 acres, down from the last reporting period.

“The industry has been making substantial investments in new trellised plantings that are much denser on a trees-per-acre basis, so just looking at acreage is deceptive,” he observed. “The industry is undergoing a survey this year using a specialty crop block grant awarded in the fall to get a better handle on what production capacity is out there.”

Several of the state’s apple producers provided their comments about production this season.

Alan Taylor, marketing director for Pink Lady America in Yakima, WA, said that apple volume this season will be down slightly from 2009-10. “We are the first apple to bloom, and the last apple to be picked,” he told The Produce News. “But we got it all in the barn.” The harvest was delayed by a week this season. “But I believe this is the best quality,” he went on to say.

Kevin Precht, marketing program director of the Cameo Apple Marketing Association in Wenatchee, WA, said that volume for the variety will be down slightly when compared to 2009-10, but quality will be high. “The fruit is getting stronger, stronger and stronger,” he told The Produce News, saying improved field techniques have translated to a product with strong eating characteristics.

Looking at the marketplace, Mr. Precht stated, “The Cameo, over the last couple of years, has developed throughout the country.” The majority of product is marketed domestically. This season, 15 percent of the Cameo crop will be organic. The majority of sales take place in February, continuing into June.

Chuck Sinks, president of Sage Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA, which markets a full line of apples to predominantly retail clients, said that sales were strong both in the fall and early winter. “We are actually seeing an increase in Red Delicious sales in some markets probably influenced by the economic times. Gala apples are a very strong seller for us throughout the United States in all markets.” The company’s apple volume is up when compared to the 2009-10 season. “We are fortunate in that apples have an elastic demand curve that allows us to utilize our sales and marketing tools in order to sell through the crop completely,” he noted.