Washington apple growers have been harvesting their apples for a few months now. The harvest for the Gala variety begins in mid-August and the season usually ends with the Pink Lady variety that is harvested in late October or early November. Vanguard Pride grows and cultivates over 2,600 acres in the Yakima valley, spread out over several ranches. Craig Stauffer, CEO of the The Vanguard International Group, says: “We work with a great assortment of apple varieties including Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp. We have selected the varieties that will work best with the area that we grow in, and so these varieties allow us to produce great quality product in the Eastern Washington climate and soil.”
Grower’s dream season
Vanguard wrapped up their harvest last month, and overall the season has been going great so far. Brett Calhoun, Vanguard Pride’s General Manager says: “We finished our harvest at the end of October, and we were very fortunate to have our fruit off the tree before the freezing temperatures hit eastern Washington. Overall, the growing conditions for this year were the best that we’ve seen in years. It really could be described as a growers’ dream season with the weather and overall conditions, which will be reflected in the quality of our apples.”
“We are looking to harvest over 1.4 million 40lb box equivalents this season and the overall production is up around 25% over last year because of new plantings that have been added to our harvest, as well as the impact of alternate bearing trees – which is normal for apples. The sizing this year is very middle of the road , and we are expecting to see a good range of sizes from 88’s to 138’s. The beauty of being a part of a global organization is that there is varied demand so we have export and domestic customers for most grades and sizes somewhere in the world,” he adds.
Stable demand and pricing
While there is always a natural fluctuation in the demand and pricing, the general description for this year is that it is stable. Stauffer says: “We are seeing that for our conventional varieties, the Gala, Fuji, and Red Delicious for example are the top sellers in North America or Asia, and for the premium varieties it is the Pink Lady and the Honey Crisp. One interesting trend that has been building recently is that of the ‘grab and go’- consumers want to be able to snack on their apples with ease. So we’ve seen that the demand for our 3 and 4 lb. bags have been increasing due to this.”
Vanguard plans to ship 75% of their product domestically and 25% to export markets in broad terms depending on variety, grade, and size. Stauffer explains: “Taiwan is our biggest market for our Fujis and then we export our Galas and the Red Delicious to other markets. Overall, the one thing that is demanded by every market and customer is quality fruit with great condition, and especially after this season, that is what we will supply,” Calhoun concludes.
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