Uneven cropping hurts
Washington apple production continues to fluctuate significantly from year to year, creating marketing difficulties. Overall, the industry is in a distinct biennial bearing pattern, Harold Ostenson, organic program manager at Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee, noted during a panel discussion at the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting.
“We’ve had huge ups and downs over the last 20 years, and I don’t see that smoothing out.”
For example, in 2008, Washington produced a record crop of close to 110 million packed boxes. Overcropped trees produced small apples of low value. A carryover into the 2009 season resulted in low prices at the start of the current crop season, even though the estimated volume is lower at under 103 million boxes.
“We’re underpricing the fruit because we’re still taking care of last year’s problems,” he said. “The impact of growing a lot of fruit and thinking we can make it up by volume affects the whole market.
“Improving your effectiveness and consistency in your orchard crop management program is one of the key factors in the future,” he added.