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US (NC): Apple crop down in North Carolina
Like growers in many apple-producing states around the country this year, North Carolina growers have had to contend with a diminished crop due to early warm weather. As a result, growers are reporting some of the lowest production, as well as some of the highest prices, they've seen in a while.
Unseasonably warm weather early in the year caused tree buds to come out prematurely. When early warm temperatures gave way to cold weather, many trees were left vulnerable to frost. Such was the case for many growers in Henderson County, the region responsible for most of the North Carolina's fresh apples.
“We'll have about 15 percent of a normal crop this year,” said Kenny Barnwell of Ridgeview Apple Packers in Hendersonville, North Carolina. The weather that caused most of the damage wasn't very extensive, noted Barnwell, but because orchards were vulnerable, it didn't take much to damage the crop. “The buds came out early, so it only took a couple of days of frost, on April 13 and 14, that caused us to lose big portions of this year's crop.”
Nationally, apple production is forecast to be 8.06 million pounds, which is down 14 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's mostly due to diminished production from eastern states which are expected to produce 1.60 million pounds this year, which is down 31 percent from last year's production. North Carolina, with damage from frost, hail and floods, is expected to follow that trend. With low yields throughout large parts of the country coupled with robust demand for fresh apples, growers are reporting strong prices.
“I've been in this business for 32 years now, and I've never seen prices this high,” said Barnwell. He added that current prices for fresh apples are about 25 percent higher than they would be in normal years. But despite strong prices, lower production has made this season one which North Carolina's growers will soon hope to forget.
“It's been one of those years,” said Barnwell. “We're just going to sell what we have and move on.”
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