US: $3 bln apple industry is crucial in Washington agri sector

It has been a challenging year for the Washington apple industry; retaliatory tariffs, labor shortages and a pandemic have all contributed to a slowdown in the supply chain. On the other hand, growers of Washington’s top agricultural product produced another large crop featuring a new star — the Cosmic Crisp, a new variety that is quickly becoming popular.

The 2019 harvest ended with 138.2 million 40-pound boxes. That’s up from the 116.7 million boxes produced in the 2018 harvest. The all-time record was 141.8 million boxes, set in 2014.

Toni Lynn Adams, spokeswoman for the Washington Apple Commission, said revenue from the latest harvest -mid-September to November 2019- was solid: “Revenues are in the neighborhood of $3 billion. It’ll change from year to year.”

Add another $3.25 billion in value-added products of apples, such as applesauce or instant oatmeal, among other items, and it’s easy to see why apples are one of Washington’s most important industries, said Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington Tree Fruit Association, adding: “An apple stores really well in cold warehouses.”

“We’re still having a problem with tariffs,” Adams said. “It’s the biggest issue for Washington apples. We represent 95 percent of all US exports of apples.”

But right now, retaliatory tariffs from other countries drew retaliatory tariffs targeting the apple market. India, for instance, has a 70 percent tariff on apples from the US

“Fifty percent is standard, and then 20 percent (retaliatory) on top of that, which results in increased costs to the consumer,” Adams said.

China raised tariffs on imported apples from 50 percent to 60 percent on Sept. 1, 2019. Mexico is the United States’ top customer, buying 13 million boxes annually. Canada is next at 5 million.

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