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US (WA): Increased productivity makes for another big apple crop

In the face of decreasing acreage over the last several years, Washington's apple growers have continually improved productivity. That has helped the state's growers return another big apple crop this year, which, though it is less than last year's record-setting crop, is the second-largest crop in state history.

“Volume was less than anticipated this year,” said Todd Fryhover, President of the Washington State Apple Commission. “The crop estimate in August was 120 million bushels, and December's final estimate was 113 million bushels.” But even after the downward adjustment, 113 million bushels would be the state's second-largest crop ever, behind last year's crop of 128 million bushels. Fryhover noted that the trend has been for acreage to go down over the last few years, so two large crops in a row has to do with the gains in productivity that growers have achieved.

“Production keeps going up because growers are doing better with what they have, and they're more efficient,” said Fryhover. Growers have also leaned on varieties that allow them to be more productive. Fryhover noted that Gala apples have become popular because growers appreciate the relative ease with which they can grow the variety, especially since it's well adapted to the state's climate. Another winner has been the Honey Crisp apple, which Fryhover thinks has the potential to double in volume over the next three years. As far as prices, he noted that they have not been on par with those from last year.

“There were crop failures in Michigan and New York last year, so when we had a bumper crop last year there was little fruit coming from the east and we had very good prices despite the volume we had,” said Fryhover. “But with eastern states having record years this season, we have seen a downturn in prices.” But he added that growers with premium quality and good sizes can still do well this year, despite softer prices from increased competition.

“Even with big volumes here and in Pennsylvania and New York, there's remarkable optimism right now,” said Fryhover. “It's going to be an okay year; not super and not bad, but adequate.”

For more information:
Todd Fryhover
Washington State Apple Commission
+1 509 663 9600