Lower production in Europe
With the exception of Portugal, all countries report below average apple productions, even though some countries are harvesting more than last year. This season, about 9.2 million tonnes will be harvested, which is 18% (or 2.09 million tonnes) less than last year. It's the smallest volume since 2007.
The spring frosts didn't just take a toll on the harvest volume, but also caused damages on the fruit's skin; therefore, the appearance of the apples is not as appealing. After the frost, the heat in July also damaged the harvest in Eastern and Southern Europe. Italy, Poland and Spain also reported local hail damage and Hungary suffered from diseases.
Italy: Trade is smooth, despite small harvests
The harvest has been smaller, leaving less fruit available for export. Most of the production is thus being distributed in the domestic market.
However, exporters have not been idle. Inspection visits have been organised because of the protocols under negotiation with Vietnam and Taiwan. China would also be interested in Italian fruit, and a visit by South Korean inspectors has also been scheduled.
Traders believe that there is a risk of insufficient volumes being available in the second half of the season. Prices are adapting to the new situation. Traders report increases in various export markets.
French apple season marked by higher prices in September
According to the estimates published on 1 October, the apple production will be 4% lower than in 2016, which was already a bad year. This entails a 6% reduction compared with the yearly average. In the southern regions, the harvest, which started early, came to a close in September. Due to the smaller supply of summer fruit there was a good market for the apples in August. At the start of the season in September, prices were 6% higher than last year and stood 4% above the yearly average.
The Golden Delicious harvest of the PACA region will record a significant drop, with a 25% reduction in terms of volume. For the Gala, the sizes and colours are not as appealing. The acreage has been expanded, especially for the Gala, although the total production is 9% lower than last year.
In the Garonne valley, the harvest is expected to be around average, with a heterogeneous production; however, the sizes are smaller due to the impact of the summer heat. In Languedoc and Roussillon, the harvest started a week earlier in August. Although the harvest was 3% higher, production remained stable due to a 3% decline in the acreage. In the Pays de la Loire region, the production volume has fallen by 8% compared with last year's already poor harvest. The harvest of the Golden Delicious has already been completed in the Limousine. The frost resulted in a 29% drop in the volume and visual defects on the fruit. In the Rhone valley, the harvest is still underway, but the volume will fall by 14%. The Centre-Val de Loire has had a 3% reduction because of the frost in April.
The season kicked off in August with supply from the south. The fruit arrived ten days earlier than normal. This early production was under pressure by the competition of summer fruit. In the export markets, demand was also limited due to the large stocks. By the end of the 2016-2017 campaign, there were 18% more apples in French storage chambers than in the previous season. At the end of September, the supply will increase and more varieties will be on the market.
Spain wants to take advantage of apple scarcity
The decline in the supply of European apples entails opportunities for Spanish growers. Prices are 10 to 20% higher than last year for all varieties on the free market. Prices for the supermarkets remain stable. There is a great demand for Granny Smith. The old Golden Delicious are running out quickly and high prices are being paid for Italian imports. In the processing industry, prices are also on the rise due to a shortage of apples. "This year we entered the Canadian market. We will start in India. Exports to the Middle East and North Africa will continue to grow," said a trader, who was disappointed with Spanish consumers. Unlike consumers in other countries, there is hardly any demand for domestic apples. Half of the apples consumed in Spain are imports. France and Italy in particular have a good position in the market.
Belgium: Smaller volume, but sweeter apples
The volume of apples in Belgium is lower than in previous years, with a drop of between 20 and 30 percent. This is due to the frosts recorded early this year. What is noticeable is that Jonagold apples are more affected than the Golden Delicious. Since fewer apples are available, Belgian apples remain within a 500 kilometre radius of the production area, as there are simply not enough apples for other markets this year.
Prices currently oscillate between 0.80 and a little over 1 Euro. According to a trader, this is on the low side to cover the production costs. A better price for the apples would be between 1.50 and 1.80 Euro, although the trader expects prices to rise in the coming months. Although fewer apples are available in Belgium, the fruit is much tastier. This is due to the amount of sun that the apples have been exposed to in the weeks before the harvest. The calibres are also larger than in previous years.
Germany: Preference for domestic apples
There are plenty of domestic apples on German local markets, especially Boskoop, Elstar and Jonagold. Consumers demand mainly the Cox Orange and Royal Gala. From Italy, the varieties currently imported are the Royal Gala and Golden Delicious. France is supplying Granny Smith and Braeburn. In the past few days, there have also been Hungarian apples in the Frankfurt area, mainly Pinova, Jonagored and Red Jonaprinz.
The limited import and the demand for apples result in stable prices, which in many places have remained as high as last week. Only in Munich have some varieties become cheaper, regardless of origin and quantity. Prices for the Boskoop currently stand at around 129 Euro per 100 kg. Meanwhile, the Jazz apples from France cost between 202 and 208 Euro per 100 kg, which makes them the most expensive variety.
British growers harvest mainly large calibres
Due to the frost in April, a lot of fruit was lost; as a result, the apples available are larger and there is a shortage of small sizes. The season started one or two weeks earlier than usual. In recent years, supermarkets have opted to sell the fruit in six packs. Now that the sizes are bigger, it has become a challenge to fit the apples in the pre-made package. "Some varieties, such as the Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Pink Lady, are imported to meet the demand, but on the continent they have the same problems with the calibres," said a trader. The price for the small apples is expected to rise. The harvest has almost been completed. There is still some Braeburn on the trees, but the early varieties, like the Cox and Gala, have already been harvested. Due to the large calibres, it may be possible to export to the Middle East.
Ukraine benefits from small European harvest
Ukrainian traders have seen an increase in the demand for Class 1 apples in different countries; however, growth is hampered by the fact that not all apples can meet those requirements. According to a trader, no more than half of the harvest is Class 1. The growers also had to deal with frost and hail, which means that the harvest was also affected.
An exporter says that contracts have been signed with traders in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States. Most of these are for the sale of Granny Smith, Fuji, Pinova, Braeburn and Golden Delicious apples. According to the exporter, there is also demand from Asia, but these markets are currently unavailable because there are no protocols in place for their export. The price has slowly increased from 0.44 Euro in September to 0.48 Euro now.
Poland is not concerned
Although the country's apple harvest is 23% lower this season, a trader says that they will be able to meet their export obligations. Existing markets like Cyprus and Greece will again receive Polish apples. Furthermore, shipments will go to France, where a customer has shown interest in the Royal Gala. According to the trader, there will be no shortage of Royal Galas this season. Later in the season there may be problems for the Idared, Jonagold and Prince.
The Netherlands and Belgium: Apple harvest was even worse than feared
Frosts have taken a huge toll on the Dutch and Belgian apple production. When WAPA published its estimates, prospects pointed to 21% more apples in the Netherlands and 68% fewer apples in Belgium, and those volumes have not stopped falling during and after the harvest. The yield per producer differs significantly. The mood is good and there are also high expectations for the most popular apple in the Netherlands: the Elstar. There have been similarly high expectations in the past, but this time they are very likely to become a reality. Sales organizations are critical of retailers' promotion requests, because there will come a time when apples will actually run out.
US: Positive mood about campaign
Growers in Washington report a good season. Due to the acreage expansion, the Honeycrisp production is on the rise, and this can be on the market until the beginning of summer in 2018. Organic apples are becoming increasingly important, so growers are making room for them.
In the state of New York, growers expect to harvest more apples than last year. "Last year, the harvest was hit by drought, which resulted in small production volumes," says a trader. "This year, the situation is the opposite." Based on a first estimate last month, a grower reported a 20% increase in the production. In Michigan State, growers are concerned about government policy towards immigrants and guest workers. Foreign workers are discouraged from coming to the country, given the plans to build a wall on the Mexican border. Without the pickers, producers in the state expect to lose millions of dollars. This year, there were about 45,000 jobs for migrants.
Australia: Production volume to actually fall
Prospects for 2017 pointed to a larger production, but in some regions the spring became cooler and wetter. Due to sunburn in summer, the volume will fall compared to last year. Most regions had a cooler summer, which meant that the growth conditions were good for a certain period of time. Despite the good quality and the comparable volumes, prices for Class 1 apples are likely to fall below those recorded last year.
India getting used to coloured apples
Traders expects a good season for import apples. Local crops have been damaged by hail, although the Kashmir region will still have a large production. Consumers are gradually getting used to different apple varieties and colours. Indian consumers traditionally prefer the red varieties, but that is slowly changing. However, a trader believes that the import rules need to be adjusted or better respected. He says that there are many apples on the market with a fake country of origin.
South Africa: Continuing drought is the biggest challenge
Apple trees are currently in an early stage of the fruit setting. This is a critical period, also because of the continued drought in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Some growers have discarded part of their orchards to be able to make the most efficient use of the scarce water available for irrigation. The first harvest is expected in January next year, so it is still too early to give a good estimate for the coming season.