US (WA): Organic apples follow conventional crop demand

With several apple-growing regions experiencing light crops this season, good volume in Washington has helped growers there take advantage of robust demand, and organic apples have also experienced that consumer pull.

“With organic fruit being a smaller category, the demand has been magnified because of smaller overall volume,” said Addie Pobst of CF Fresh in Washington. With light supplies throughout the country, she noted that prices for organic apples have been up to four times what they are in normal years. Those prices vary based on the variety, but rarer varieties are seeing the highest prices.

“The standby varieties do not have much higher prices,” she said. “But rare varieties and those that are in short supply are getting higher prices.” Organic apples, being a specialty product to begin with, are experiencing that more acutely.

Because Washington has enjoyed good supplies, growers have benefited from the good demand. Pobst estimates that CF Fresh has harvested about 10 percent more fruit than anticipated, so they will be able to satisfy their customers.

“We're ahead of what our estimates were for the size of our crop,” she said. “There were hail storms in July that brought down our estimates for this year, but even with that reduction, we have come out ahead.” She also sees a general upturn in the industry that will continue into next year, whether supplies are plentiful or not.

“We've really seen increased demand since spring, since the end of the last season,” said Pobst. “Prices were strong then, and it's been a steady progression through the California season and now our season again. We're seeing a resurgence in the demand for organics, and it feels like something of a change in the economy or consumer spending power. Something's going on, no one can say what it is, but it feels like good times are coming.”

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