Domestic apples welcome better sizing and ample supplies

Domestic apple growers are eyeing a solid 2018 crop.

“The apple crop will be similar in numbers from Washington. We’re just finishing last season’s crop and it’s going to end up around 134 million boxes,” says Randy Steensma of Honey Bear Tree Fruit Co. in Wenatchee, Wa. “We’re forecasting this year to be about 132-135 million boxes.”

Pennsylvania says the same. “Volume is going to be as much as last year and pack outs will probably be better. For Pennsylvania we’re looking at 11-11.5 million bushels with better pack outs,” says Sandy Cohen of Cohen Produce Marketing in Camp Hill, Pa., adding he believes supplies from New York will be higher than last year and Michigan even more so. “There will be no shortage of apples.”

Apples from Honey Bear Tree Fruit Co. in Washington.

Sizing better
What is different this year is better sizing on domestic apples. “We have a lighter set on the trees but the apples are more moderate in size. Last year we had a crop of small apples,” says Steensma. “This year we have our normal sizing of 80s, 88s and 100s. So what we lose in total apples we gain in size.”

Cohen adds that overall, quality looks good since the Pennsylvania crop had good pollination and fruit set. “The crop looks better as you look out on the trees and the fruit is sizing,” he says. “Color is yet to be determined. We’re hoping for some good coloring weather.”

Back out west, the state there is waiting to see how the heat is faring on its crop. “We’re in heat right now—it’s in the 100+ degree range but some of that’s normal,” says Steensma. “As growers, we don’t like to see the warm temperatures because it allows for sunburn issues and things like that.” While that might affect pack outs, Steensma says it’s working to offset the heat via shade cloth and overheating cooling.

Photo: Cohen Produce Marketing

Varieties switch
As for availability, Steensma says a few varieties are alternating bearing this year. “Due to the young plantings, we’ll have more Galas than last year. The estimate is five to 10 percent more than last year.” Red Delicious look to be down, but that’s compared to a sizeable 2017 Red Delicious crop. Fujis will be similar to last year but Honey Crisps look more ample by as much as 20 percent more than 2017’s crop. “And you’ll see gains of 15-20 percent in Pink Ladies because of the young plantings coming into bearing. And the new varieties—Jazz, Envy, Smitten, Ambrosia, they’re all coming into major production. It’ll be another 10 per cent a year on those,” says Steensma.

As for demand, local is where it’s at. “Retailers, especially in the Northeast but really the East all over, are focusing on local,” says Cohen. “And when you’ve got the freight rates coming out of the west right now, it makes sense.”

Beyond local
However, what’s undetermined is exporting domestic apples, given the recent tariff and trade talks. “The state of Washington exports as much as 40 percent of all our fruit to Canada, Mexico, South America and of course Asia is a huge market for us,” says Steensma. “It’s a concern but not a deal maker because our crop is a moderate crop. If we had a whopper crop on the trees, we’d be more concerned.”

And while it’s early to determine pricing for the season, both Steensma and Cohen say it’ll likely start off similar to last year’s pricing. “And then we’ll adjust according to the crop as it comes in,” says Steensma. “We’ll need to start with aggressive promotions as we come into the fall.

For more information:
Randy Steensma
Honey Bear Tree Fruit Co.
Tel: +1 (509) 663-2625

Sandy Cohen
Cohen Produce Marketing
Tel: +1 (717) 571-5800

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