GLOBAL MARKET OVERVIEW APPLES

As a staple fruit, apples remain ever popular in households worldwide. Many production areas, however, have been affected by unusual weather conditions during the growing season this year. In the UK, recent warm weather pushed the season forward by more than week for some varieties, whilst the same heat in France and Italy has caused a drop in production in these countries. The frosty spell in the spring in Spain and Serbia has also caused losses, whilst in North America similar conditions have caused fruits of differing maturity on the same tree, making harvest more challenging than usual.

Netherlands: Good demand for Elstar, not yet for Jonagold
Due to the warm weather, the estimated Dutch apple harvest of 245,000 tonnes will be lower anyway, according to specialists in the Dutch hard fruit market. The sun and heat have affected growth and quality, making hardiness and colour a problem this year. The quality of apples from the most watered plots looks good, but where it has not been possible to irrigate, the fruit is more difficult to size and the damage caused by sunburn is considerable. Elstar is enjoying structurally good demand. On the wood, Elstar was sold this year for 45-50 cents and that price remains fairly stable. However, there is little or no demand for the Jonagold-like varieties. This has everything to do with the available harvest of last season and the harvest in Poland that is getting underway.

Germany: European fruit from the 2022 crop year dominated the market
Supply from the old harvest has almost completely disappeared from the German market. European fruit from the 2022 crop year dominated, according to statistics. The presence of Delbarestivale and Jonagold expanded strongly, with Elstar also gaining in importance. From Italy, Royal Gala and Golden Delicious were increasingly supplied. From France came mainly Granny Smith; Akane were too small-fruited in Munich and therefore generated little attention. French Jerseymac supplemented the range, as did Spanish Granny Smiths. Supplies from Poland and the Netherlands completed the scene. From time to time, inflows were too large and demand too weak, which meant the traders could hardly avoid reductions in price. Price increases were very rare. The situation was similar for imports from overseas. New Zealand and Chilean items dominated in this sector. Their relevance was limited, but this did not have any fundamental impact on valuations.

UK: Early start to UK apple season
The British apple season started 7–10 days earlier than last year on most varieties. This is not unusual, as last season was late. That said growers are seeing an acceleration of maturity due to the warm weather. “It is clear that there is some effect from the drought and heat. The earlier nature of the season is predominantly down to the timing of flowering in the spring, rather than the sustained hot weather now, although this is a factor in accelerating maturity. This varies from variety to variety and orchard to orchard,” said an English grower.

Colour looks to be developing well, better than last season. This is in part due to the higher light levels, but also the difference in night and daytime temperatures, which with the very high day time temperatures has meant a good difference between day and night even if the nights have been warm. Fruit size in some cases appears to have been restricted through lack of water where irrigation is not available, or soil type does not hold ground water so well. Sunburn on some varieties will reduce quality. Other varieties, such as Bramley in some locations was affected by a long flowering period so has a wide variation in fruit size, this will affect grade-out. Where size has not developed growers will thin off smaller fruit, reducing yield. Cox, although in decline is the first significant volume harvested, followed by Gala. Varieties such as Discovery are in rapid decline and no longer significant. 

The contrast between this year and last is remarkable, last year it was very wet and this year has been extremely hot and dry

According to the grower some retailers have very much understood the inflation growers and suppliers have faced, and although perhaps not accepted the full extent of this, have increased prices to reflect a sensible share of the inflation faced by growers. He appreciates that other retailers find the marketplace more competitive and like growers have responsibility to consumers to maintain affordability, but said that increases in retail prices on the supermarket shelf need to be fed down to the grower.

France: Lower forecasts and a calm market  
In many regions of France, the apple harvest started early due to different climatic events. Early varieties have been particularly affected by the drought. Last week, an industry body indicated a re-evaluation of the harvest forecasts downwards: between 1,300,000 and 1,350,000 tonnes, that is to say 4 % less than last year's harvest. A re-evaluation that particularly affects the Gala "especially if we talk about marketable crop in fresh because the hot temperatures affect the colouring. There will therefore be a higher than usual proportion of Gala destined for processing and consequently a lower fresh market. If the harvests are lower, the sugar levels are, on the other hand, very high."

On the production side, the sector, already strongly impacted by the generalized increase in costs, denounces the explosion of the wholesale price of electricity (an increase of 1000% in two years) and warns: "if nothing is done, this situation will lead to the economic death of a third of French arboriculturists."

In terms of marketing, the market is calm: "We have arrived on a market not yet fully developed. We arrived on a market not yet empty. There are still apples from the southern hemisphere and in some countries apples from the old harvest. And with the heat all over Europe, there is more demand for summer fruit than for apples," said one operator this week.

Belgium: Belgian apples do not enter a clean market
With the picking of the Flemish top fruit in full swing, many growers and traders are already looking at the coming season with a slanted eye, which will again present the necessary uncertainties and challenges. "With the apples, the course of the season will depend greatly on how many growers will place in the fridges. There is some damage to the apples, but it is not that bad," says a Belgian trader. "Around the period when the temperature was around 38 degrees, we had to deal with some sunburn damage, but it is less serious than two years ago. With the Elstar and Cox I estimate it at about 10 percent of the harvest and with the Jonagold it will be about 5 percent. Fortunately, the most dangerous period is over now that the sun is less in the sky and the temperatures are dropping."

Incidentally, unlike the pears, the apples do not end up on a clean market. "There are still quite a few old apples on the market. They will undoubtedly try to sell them, which will soon lead to a crowded market. With the sharply increased storage costs, many traders will probably choose to use the new harvest for the industry. As I said, for both pears and apples, a great deal will depend on what will be placed in the fridges. In that respect, it is of course always uncertain what will actually happen, but let me state first that I hope that we can have a good year."

Italy: Hesitant start to apple season expected
The 2022/23 Italian apple season is on the starting blocks. Production is expected to decrease slightly, with an increase in more innovative varieties and organic apples. After last year's slightly lower sizes, there will be a return to medium to large standard levels, which should better meet the demands of some markets than in the previous campaign.

In South Tyrol and Trentino, as well as in Piedmont, the harvest of the Gala variety started in mid-August. In South Tyrol, a significant decrease is expected, due to the strong spring drop, but also to the extreme heat waves of the last few months, which have impacted, in some cases, the colour of the fruit, creating more waste. Sales also started on 29 August for the club cultivar SweeTango™, an apple that has been harvested since mid-August and has a very fresh, crisp and juicy taste, which has all the attributes for a good season.

In general, a hesitant start to the apple season is expected, according to the Italian consortia and cooperatives. At least for the first few months, a balance will have to be sought. At the moment, for example, temperatures are still very high and there is a heavy supply of apples on the markets that are struggling to sell because there is still summer fruit available.

In terms of the harvest, quality, size and assortment of apples are the strong points to face the current context. Indeed, the sector is concerned about increases in energy and raw material costs, which can hardly be fully absorbed at the production level. Moreover, product management, in the light of climate change, will be the new unknown of the future.

In Campania, this is a poorer year than the previous one: in fact, in the province of Caserta alone, in terms of production, they are at -30% compared to last year. The quality is not the best due to the excessive drought of the past months. As for summer apples, the volumes are -15% of last year's.

Spain: 16% drop in production expected due to frosts
The apple harvest has begun in Girona, one of the most important production areas in Spain, where 20% of the production has already been harvested. At the moment it is the Royal Gala variety that is being harvested, earlier than usual due to the high temperatures, although this is also giving fruit higher sugar levels. As a whole, Spain expects a drop in production of 16% compared to the average of the last 3 years, due to the effects of the frosts in April.

At the moment, the forecasts point to a production similar to last year's in Girona, something that can already be seen in the Gala variety, although growers are waiting to see how production evolves in the following varieties and if there could be a slight reduction due to the heat waves. The drought and the high temperatures are causing a lack of caliber throughout Europe, as well as the difficulty in obtaining colour in Gala apples, which is leading to a considerable commercial decrease, which could benefit the Catalan apples.

Although apple prices have been ruinous in a commercially difficult year, prices of the new harvest are around 15 cents higher given the exorbitant increase in production costs.

Serbia: 10% lower yield expected
Serbia annually produces more than 500,000 tons of apples, with a total acreage of ​​around 27,000ha. However, this season the country expects a yield around 10 per cent lower, due to the frost that Serbia experienced during the spring period. In the previous season, a total of around 160,000 tonnes of apples were exported from Serbia.
For conventional apples, such as Royal Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious, Serbia's main markets will be the Middle and Far East, together with the United Kingdom, which is the second largest market in Europe for Serbian apples, after Russia.

The war in Ukraine brought Serbian apple exporters many uncertainties. In the first place, the supply chain was damaged and the costs of transport to Moscow tripled. Currency exchange rates remain unstable, which was heavily influencing the import-export activities. Additionally, there have been many situations where the transfer of money took much longer than usual.

Poland: Volume of apples up 10%, but growers face labour issues
Poland will have a good volume of apples this season, up to 10 per cent more apples compared to last year, and good quality fruits. With no frost in spring, a mild summer and only few hailstorms, crops will be good. Total apple volume in Poland is estimated at 4.5 million tons, which is double the amount compared to France or Italy. Polish exporters are seeing larger volumes of Gala, Golden and Red Delicious varieties this season as well. Obtaining all the required labour is challenging. Prices for workers are high and labour is hard to find. Not impossible, but the search for workers is a hard one.

Turkey: Excellent quality for Turkish apple harvest
The Turkish apple harvest has started, with Gala being the earliest variety. Weather conditions were good, there was sufficient water for apples and the Turkish exporters expect very good quality apples this upcoming harvest. One exporter stated this might be the best quality of apples that Turkish growers have seen for the past ten years. Harvest is expected to finish in October with the latest varieties. 

South Africa: Exports to US up 140%
Domestically, class 1 apples in South Africa are currently selling for R7.65 (0.45 euro) on the municipal markets.

Apple exports have shown some interesting trends this season, with a 140% increase to the USA and Canada (from a low base), a 42% growth in apple exports to the Middle East and a rise in 18% to the Far East and Asia by the end of week 34, compared to last year.

By contrast, apple exports to the UK are down by 13% and exports to Russia by 15% reduced so far this year, but traders note that exports to China in particular went very well this year.

“We had a very good year on apples to China which had a short domestic supply. There’s quite a big of opportunity for us. We sold a lot directly to retailers who, due to lockdowns, who were able to pivot to online.”

Export inspections of new South African variety Bigbucks (sold as Flash Gala) increased by 121%, while Pink Lady inspections are up by 10% while Golden delicious export inspections are the only apple category to have dropped, by 17%.

Overall, apple export estimate for 2022 is 1% higher than last year and exports will continue to the end of the year.

It is wintertime in the Cape, the rain season which has been late and rainfall is thus far lower than hoped-for. In the Ceres Valley, major apple production area, growers are already in drought mode and drilling more boreholes. “We are 30% behind on water where we want to be for the dams to be full,” a grower says, noting that after the recent serious drought, apple growers are very quick to heed early warnings. The Western Cape is about to experience a general drying, climatologists say.

North America: Positive outlook for apples despite challenging growing season
According to the U.S. Apple Association, there’s an almost two percent decline in total apple production this fall. (Though it’s a 3.5 percent increase over the five percent average.)

In Washington, the apple crop is a difficult one to predict. “The initial estimate is for 108 million cartons. That seems to be within the range of what the field staff is thinking,” says one grower-shipper.

The challenge comes following cold weather and snow that occurred during bloom earlier this year. As she notes, on the same tree there is fruit that was pollinated before the freeze/snow and there’s also fruit that bloomed out 10 days later when things warmed up again. “This is going to create some challenges with maturity, picking, etc. In addition to that, we had a cold spring and a hot summer,” she says.

Collectively, this has also pushed back the start of the crop by about two weeks. The combination of warm days and nights have slowed the color development growers look for. “Also, at this point, the fruit looks smaller than normal. However, as we are two weeks behind, all these things may change in the next couple of weeks,” the grower-shipper adds.

In terms of varieties, Wildfire Gala apples have just started being harvested and packed, and Premier Honeycrisp will start in another week or so. Regular Gala apples will start, at the earliest, towards the end of next week. “We are also coming off a short crop from last season and with the two week delay, we are seeing some varieties with gaps-- Fuji, Golden and Pink Lady in particular,” she says.

At the same time, on the other side of the country, there are reports that both Michigan and New York states have good apple crops for the 2022-2023 season. Michigan apple growers predict they are going to produce their best harvest in three years with a forecast of nearly 30 million bushels--that is almost twice the size of last year.

Other regions such as Pennsylvania, and Canada (the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec specifically) are also producing apples. “Movement on apples has been very good this month,” says the grower-shipper. “With the high cost of freight, we will see some buyers shift to these local production areas in order to keep costs down.”

As for pricing, the gap on some varieties is behind the strong pricing on those particular varieties given there’s high demand and little supply at this point.

Chile: Area of apples falls in the main producing regions
In its semi-annual report on Chilean deciduous fruit published last June, the USDA estimated the production of Chilean apples in the period 2021/22 at 1,036,000 tons, which would represent a decrease of 4 .8% compared to 2020/21 as a result of a decrease in the area planted in the country, which the US agency calculates at 4.2% for a total of 30,097 hectares.

The Maule and O'Higgins regions, in the centre-south of the country, represent 63.4% and 20.6% of the planted area, respectively, together accounting for 84% of the total apple production area. "However, as fruit growers continue to switch to more profitable crops, such as cherries or walnuts, the area planted in the Maule and O'Higgins regions has decreased in the last three seasons," the USDA details in its report; in fact, according to Odepa data, they registered decreases of 11% and 17.4% respectively.

The USDA projected last June that exports should amount to a total of 610,000 tons in that period, contracting 5.2% compared to the same period of 2020/21. And although the data up to March reported a 24.1% decrease in Chilean apple exports compared to the same month of the 2020/21 period, totalling 45,552 tons, apple exports should have taken a greater boost near the peak months of export of May, June and July.

“At the beginning of the analysed period in 2021/22, one of the main problems in the Chilean fresh fruit export industry was the increase in freight costs and the high demand in Chilean ports, which caused delays in exports,” explained the USDA.

Although delays were not only a waste of time. From a survey carried out by a Chilean industry body about the impact of the logistics crisis and rising costs in the fruit growers' season, it was concluded that 9 out of 10 growers believed they would not be able to afford the upcoming work of the next campaign 2022-2023.

"The situation shows a very severe lack of financing, and many producers do not have a way to start the 2022-2023 campaign, because they have not received the expected income before this entire crisis," said an industry body representative. "Since March we have been warning about the impact of logistical delays, and the consultation we carried out revealed that 64% of the producers saw the condition of their fruit seriously compromised due to delays in reaching the destination ports." In fact, half of the producers had between 30% and 60% loss of condition in their production to be sold.

However, the USDA notes, one of the main advantages apple exporters have over other fruit exporters is that apples can withstand longer storage times than other fruits; thus, exporters can store their fruit and wait for better market or logistical conditions.

Chile exports apples to 70 different markets. In 2020/21 Chile sent 74,348 tons of apples to Colombia, which represented 11.5% of total apple exports. Colombia has historically been a main market for Chilean apples and in 2021/22 (with data up to March) everything indicates that it will remain in that position.

The United States was the second destination for Chilean apples in the 2020/21 season, acquiring 60,496 tons, which represented 9.4% of total exports. India was in third place with the receipt of 56,297 tons, which represented 8.7% of exports, registering a remarkable growth of 172.7% compared to the same months of 2019/20; however, in the first quarter of 2022 shipments would have fallen by -82.3%.

China: Lower yields, higher prices
China’s well-known apple producing region, LuoChuan, in Shaanxi is facing a decline of 20% to 40% of this year’s apple harvest, mainly due to poor weather conditions. In addition, production is also gradually declining because growers are exchanging apple trees for other agricultural crops. Other large apple regions in China including Gansu and Shandong also expecting a drop in apple production. LuoChuan’s apple industry suffered from hail and frost damage in early spring.

As a result of the decline in production volume, prices are expected to rise in comparison to last season. Prices are currently 65% higher for LuoChuan apples than this time last year, according to a regional trader. In addition, production quality and flavor is also higher as the reduced number of apples on the trees led to better nutrition distribution among the remaining apples.

Next week: Global Market Overview Pineapples!


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