In My View
Future Washington apple crops
Peering into the future is always risky, and the findings may often be disturbing. However, I firmly believe that in perennial crops such as apples, firms and industries need to have reasonable projections of the future in order to make prudent long-term investments in plantings, packing, storage, and marketing.
I began to make such projections for Washington State apples after the surge in plantings between 1978 and 1982.
My latest projections look ahead to the Washington State apple crop in the years 2010 and 2015. In making these projections, I have drawn upon past tree fruit censuses conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture; the annual nursery surveys conducted by Tree Top, Inc.; estimated yield trends over time for different varieties; assumptions about tree life and new plantings; and sundry other information.
If present trends continue, the Washington State fresh apple pack is likely to average close to 110,000 carlots in the next decade (see table). Production of both Red Delicious and Golden Delicious is likely to fall substantially, but these declines will be more than offset by increased production of Granny Smith and of numerous bicolored varieties.
The estimate of 110,000 carlots assumes average yields. However, yields frequently vary by 10 percent above or below the average in any year. Thus, the industry will have to cope with fresh packs that usually range between 100,000 and 120,000 carlots. Clearly, both the size of the packs, and the potential variations will present a formidable marketing challenge for the Washington State industry. There is not likely to be any dramatic increase in volume for any one variety. The biggest percentage growth is likely to be in newer varieties such as Honeycrisp and Jazz, even though by 2015 these newer varieties will still make up less than 6 percent of the Washington State crop.
Factors that could affect projections
These projections assume that average yields between 2005 and 2015 remain the same as those experienced in the 2000-2005 period. If growers are successful in boosting yields, that would further increase the potential crop. The projections also assume minimal new plantings of established varieties such as Fuji and Gala, and that marketing clubs will limit plantings of their varieties. Our estimates suggest that total Washington State apple acreage will fall by 7 percent to 178,500 acres in 2015, and that the number of acres that are one to four years old will fall by more than half from 37,000 acres in 2000 to 15,000 acres in 2015.
If, indeed, there are more new plantings, that would also increase the potential crop. On the other hand, growers might remove trees and acreage more rapidly then we anticipate. This could well be the case for Red Delicious blocks if prices continue to be weak.
How reliable are these projections?
Many factors could intervene to upset these projections. A lot can happen in ten years. However, using similar methods, I prepared forecasts in 1999 that projected the Washington State fresh pack for 2005 at 104,379 carlots. The latest summary for the 2004-2005 crop indicates a fresh pack of 104,947 carlots. The projections presented in the table below suggest that crops like the 2004-2005 one could become the norm in the next decade.
At the least, these projections should be a useful starting point for individual growers or organizations to develop their own expectations of how many carlots of each major variety and of all varieties they anticipate in the next decade. It should also be a useful starting point for urgent discussions about how the Washington State apple industry might best cope with persistently large crops.
Washington's fresh apple crop-current and future
|2004-05 Actual (carlots)||2010 Projected (carlots)||2015 Projected (carlots)||Change 2005 to 2015 (percent)|
|Red Delicious||39,178||34,680||28,334||- 27.7|
|Golden Delicious||13,788||13,127||12,093||- 12.3|
|Granny Smith||12,876||14,093||14,559||+ 13.1|
|Cripps Pink||2,074||2,645||3,493||+ 68.4|
|All other||2,133||3,743||5,931||+ 178.1|
|A carlot is equivalent to 1,000 boxes.|