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Export volume in state of flux for Washington apple crop

Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, said apple volume to be shipped to export markets this season may decrease as a result of weather affecting the coming crop.

“It’s too early to be definitive, but it’s highly likely,” he told The Produce News. “With the reductions in New York and Michigan, we anticipate higher domestic demand. With this increased demand, it’s going to come down to ‘risk vs. reward’ — sell domestically and make delivery in a week or less, or send the apples to overseas markets with a transits approaching 45 days in some cases.”

He said damage to the crop was not variety-specific. “The volume is predicted to be 108.735 [million boxes of fresh apples], our second-largest crop. However, the potential was much higher. I think, providing labor isn’t an issue, we will harvest our largest crop ever when you include the processor apples.”

Washington is expected to supply 77 percent of fresh apples moving through the pipeline this season. “Michigan was hit hard, and there are many processors in that region of the U.S. maybe taking apples from Washington for processing in Michigan,” he observed. “This would help firm the processor market prices. We need this.”

Mr. Fryhover was asked if there be any realignment of product flow offshore as a result of the July hailstorm. “This is a difficult question,” he replied. “I think Washington exporters will try to support their primary export customers, but the focus should be on domestic accounts for the reason listed above. So the realignment could be on the shoulders of less exports.”

Labor was an issue earlier this season, and Mr. Fryhover said some orchards were not pruned adequately to promote larger fruit growth. But he went on to say, “In general, sizing looks excellent, and the quality is very nice [for] those apples that aren’t hailed on, of course.”

Harvesting has already begun in Washington, and Mr. Fryhover said it will be a few weeks before export activity begins.