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Potential for a record-setting apple crop looms large on Washington’s horizon

Washington apple producers are rising to the occasion, changing the notion of what the “new normal” is looking like for the state’s industry. This season, the Evergreen State is predicted to market 140.2 million 40-pound boxes of apples, another large crop and anticipated record-setter.

Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, said the growth track has been a calculated one. “These are the kinds of crops people are expecting,” he told The Produce News. “It’s what the industry has been preparing for.”

sdaCropOverviewThis season weather conditions have been generally conducive to production for Washington apple producers. (Photo courtesy of Stemilt Growers LLC)DeVaney said growers have made the kind of infrastructure investments that will translate to larger crop volume in the coming years. Careful planning includes removal of unproductive blocks, which are being replaced with newer and more productive apple varieties. “A lot of new varieties are being tried,” he stated, adding that growers continue to hone in on taste profiles that meet marketplace demand.

Honeycrisp, a newer variety that continues to enjoy good marketplace acceptance, is an excellent example of this kind of dynamic, he went on to say.

Increased high-density plantings are also boosting volume.

The picture looming on the horizon is bright this season. Pollination was good. Despite some recent hot days in Washington, overall temperatures have had a positive effect on the apple crop. “It’s been a good growing season,” DeVaney stated. “The forecast for quality is very good.”

The harvest itself is expected to ramp up soon. “Most folks I’ve talked to said they are a few days early this year,” he added.

Looking at the distribution of this year’s bumper crop, the numbers of 40-pound boxes are stacking up nicely by variety, with the following approximate volumes: Red Delicious/38.2 million; Golden Delicious/11.8 million; Granny Smith/17.3 million; Fuji/20.3 million; Gala/30 million; Braeburn/2.3 million; Jonagold/1.1 million; Cameo/635,000; Cripps Pink/4.2 million; Honeycrisp/7.8 million; and all other varieties/6 million.

Washington is a national leader for production of both conventional and organic fruit. As the size of the annual Washington apple crop moves upward, producers continue to explore increased sales both domestically and on the export side. DeVaney said one-third of Washington’s apple crop is typically exported each season.

Effective Sept. 1, DeVaney assumed his duties as the president of the newly formed Washington State Tree Fruit Association. The new organization represents a merger of four industry organizations in Washington state: Yakima Growers-Shippers Association, Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, Washington State Horticultural Association and Washington Growers Clearing House Association.

“The possibility of merging two or more organizations has been talked about for many years,” DeVaney said, adding that the work to bring the new organization to life began in earnest over two years ago.

DeVaney said the merger will create industry efficiencies moving forward.