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Organic apple, pear volumes are increasing for Domex

by Lora Abcarian | January 10, 2011
Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, WA, said that the company's volume of organic apples and pears continues to grow in response to marketplace demand. "Every apple we produce conventionally, we produce organically," he told The Produce News Jan. 14. According to Mr. Queen, Domex Superfresh Growers marketed 15 percent of Washington’s organic apple volume during the 2009-10 season and 28 percent of the state’s organic pears. “We’re blessed here in Washington with no better location than eastern Washington for growing organic pears and apples,” he said. Arid conditions in the growing region, coupled with both high and low temperatures, promote good fruit coloring, sizing and sugar content. The region experiences less pest pressures, and growers are not fighting blight.

“In regard to where we sit in the market, movement of organic apples is higher this season,” he commented. “We’ve crested the million-dollar mark for organic apples.” The company’s three top organic apple varieties are Red Delicious, Fuji and Gala. Cameos have also been a good seller for the company.

Mr. Queen said that the Honeycrisp variety continues to gain in popularity, and supplies will clean up around the beginning of February. Statewide, organic Honeycrisp production has increased 46.5 percent last season. In sharp contrast, he went on to say, Domex Superfresh Growers has increased its Honeycrisp volume 125 percent. “That one’s still the star of the show,” he said. “There are a lot of young trees coming into bearing.”

Demand for Fuji and Gala has been good this season, and Mr. Queen said these varieties and Cameos will be available through May. Other varieties such as Braeburn and Jonagold have been available in good supply.

With regard to organic pears, Mr. Queen said, “The market on pears has just been great.” The company’s No. 1 seller is the organic Green Anjou, followed by Bartlett and Bosc.

Mr. Queen said that improved growing techniques continue to boost pear volume. “It is becoming easier to grow pears organically,” he said. “We know where to plant and how to plant.”

Domex Superfresh Growers works with a group of organic pear growers in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, some of whom have 25 years of experience growing organic product. Knowledge and know-how are important, Mr. Queen noted, because, “yield and size suffer because of the lack of fertilizer.” Although it costs more to do so, growers are able to apply enough organic fertilizers to ensure trees get the nutrition needed to produce good fruit, he said.

Organic pears represented 8 percent of Domex Superfresh Growers’ overall pear volume last season, and Mr. Queen said that volume for both conventional and organic pears is expected to grow in the coming years.

“There’s a demand for it,” he said. “Our plan is to continue growth.”