At the moment, Washington state apple growers are shipping some 20 percent less fruit abroad, compared with this time last year. This means a drop to export levels not seen since 2003-2004, says Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover.
The upsurge in online shopping by US consumers during the pandemic has prompted a boost in imports from Asia. But that left US agriculture products without a ride back. Many ships aren't waiting to be loaded with agricultural goods at West Coast ports before heading back across the ocean with empty containers. The Trump administration's trade war has also hit apples hard.
Now Eastern European countries are crunching into exports from Northwest apple growers. According to Fryhover, countries like Serbia, Moldova and Russia have access to newer varieties: “They have (been) improving horticultural practices, and their labor is much less expensive than for us here in the United States.”
Fryhover told opb.org that his organization has seen as many as 20 different countries’ labels or cartons on apples coming into India, where the US used to dominate the market. Many Eastern European growers are concentrating on the popular Gala apples and exporting them to a lot of countries to which the US also sells.