Global apple outlook
Production is down in many countries, but China was expecting a record crop.
On paper, the world’s supply of apples looks fairly robust. Looks can be deceiving, however, and most U.S. marketers are looking at their world as if it is short on apples for the 2012-13 season.
Part of the reason is China. The world’s largest producer with more than half the crop, China is expected to produce a record crop about 8 percent larger than last year. Eight percent more in China is a lot more bushels—144 million bushels more, equivalent to Washington State’s entire crop.
But Chinese apples aren’t fully integrated into the world’s markets. In much of the rest of the world, apple supplies are lower this year, and outside of China, the crop is looking smaller in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.
At the U.S. Apple Association Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago in late August, representatives of apple organizations from around the world gave reports on the size and condition of their local crop.
Michael Choi, president of Zhonglu America Corporation, a subsidiary of one of the oldest and largest apple juice concentrate producers in China, reported that the 2012 crop is pegged at 38.7 million bushels (about 10 times the U.S. crop).
China’s apple production has been increasing every year, Choi said, but apple juice concentrate production is falling as China’s domestic market absorbs ever more fresh apples. Growers there are starting to hold more apples in storage, looking toward better profits from a longer fresh-marketing period.
This gradual withdrawal of China from the apple juice concentrate market has greatly strengthened prices for juice apples worldwide. Only 12 percent of China’s apples went into this market last year, as 82 percent went into China’s domestic market as fresh apples, Choi said.
China’s production of concentrate peaked in 2007 at 1.1 metric tons and has been declining since. From the big crop this year, China is looking to export about 710,000 metric tons of concentrate, up from 626,000 tons last year.
Leighton Romney, a board member of Paquime, a large family-owned grower, packer, and importer of apples in Mexico, spoke about the Mexican crop.
Mexico is the U.S.’s major export market, and the amount Mexico imports depends on how much it produces domestically.
Mexico is expecting a short crop of 10 million bushels this year, Romney said. With domestic consumption pegged at 29.7 million bushels, that leaves a deficit of 19.7 million bushels. The Mexican apple and peach crops were both heavily damaged by freezes. The United States is expected to take 47 percent of the 19.7 million bushel deficit, Romney said.
“Apples are expensive in Mexico, and will be more so this year,” he said, as prices will be higher because of the reduced production.
Philippe Binard is secretary general of the World Apple and Pear Association in Brussels, Belgium, which gathers production and use information from across Europe.
Much of Europe also experienced an early spring and then freezes that cut its expected production from a normal 10.4 million metric tons (545 million bushels) by 9 percent to a forecast 9.7 million metric tons (491.4 million bushels).
Poland, in eastern Europe, is the largest producer, and its crop of 146.7 million bushels is up 24 percent from the five-year average. Italy, the second largest producer, is down 10 percent from average to just under 2 million metric tons (104.8 million bushels).
France, the number-three producer, is down 29 percent from its five-year average of 1.6 million metric tons (85.3 million bushels). Germany, number four, has a near normal crop of 933,000 metric tons (48.9 million bushels).
Just east and south of the core countries of the European Union, Turkey is a large producer and is just below its normal production, pegged this year at 2.4 million metric tons (124 million bushels). Russia is up slightly at 1.6 million metric tons (85 million bushels).
Of the European production of 511 million bushels, Golden Delicious is most prevalent, forecast at 116 million bushels, followed by Gala at 56 million bushels and Red Delicious at 29 million bushels.
Donald Werden, who works in sales and logistics of the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, spoke about the Canadian apple crop.
Canada is expecting a crop of 14.1 million bushels, 32.6 percent below last year and its smallest crop in more than 20 years.
The big drop occurs in Ontario, down 87.2 percent from its average 9.3 million bushels to 1.1 million bushels. Like Michigan and New York, Ontario endured a month of subfreezing April nights after a balmy March that brought bud break on March 19.
British Columbia’s crop is up 26 percent to an estimated 5.5 million bushels, with more than 600,000 bushels of it the Ambrosia variety.
Nova Scotia’s crop is up just slightly, at 2.1 million bushels. Quebec’s crop, at 5.3 million bushels, is down 9 percent. New Brunswick, a small producer, has a crop down slightly at 167,000 bushels, Werden said. •