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L&M’s Horder: It’s been a season of consistent inconsistencies

Keith Horder, director of business development for L&M Cos., had to chuckle a little when he contemplated the coming apple season. “The consistency this year is inconsistency,” he told The Produce News Aug. 29. “Growers have been hesitant to make predictions about crop size and product size.”

The company’s Washington operations are located in Union Gap. Weather fluctuations, which can always upset the apple cart, have been wild this production season. Mr. Horder said that a November frost damaged some trees in Washington, and he characterized spring conditions in 2011 as cold and wet, resulting in a delayed harvest.

“We had a double whammy. Because the crop is late, size looks smaller,” he added, saying the coming weeks will be a determining factor.

He injected a note of caution to the scenario. “That’s created a false demand [for apples] right now,” Mr. Horder commented, adding that the industry will have a sizeable crop to move this season. He expects a silver lining, however, because the company may be able to take advantage of unique marketing and sales opportunities to move certain varieties such as Red Rome.

“It could be the apple a lot of retailers want to promote,” he went on to say.

There are some concerns about the extended harvesting season and the impact frost and cold weather will have on Pink Ladies, which come into production in November.

L&M markets a full apple manifest. Last season, L&M became a Washington grower of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples. Mr. Horder said a joint partnership initiated last year with Apple King LLC, Strand Apples Inc. and Andrus & Roberts Produce Co. was highly successful.

“We’ve added Conrad & Adams and Eakin Fruit,” he said of the expanded partnership in 2011.

L&M markets apples under the “Nature’s Delight” label and does private labeling at customer request. “Our packers also ship under their own labels,” he added.

Mr. Horde anticipated good sales for both domestic and global markets. Around 35 percent of apple volume is exported in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Russia.