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The U.S. Apple Association lowered its estimate of the size of the United States apple crop by 3.2 million bushels from an estimate it made August 1.

At its annual Crop Marketing and Outlook Conference in Chicago on August 23, western growers argued that the size of the western crop was smaller by 5.2 million bushels than the earlier estimate.

At the same time, growers in New York upped their estimate by 1.2 million bushels and North Carolina growers said they had a half million more than previously ­estimated.

The total 2013 apple crop was placed at 243.3 million bushels, up from 215.7 million bushels harvested in 2012.

The final estimate placed production in 13 eastern states at 58.3 million bushels, production in 10 midwestern states at 36.6 million bushels, and production in seven western states at 149.4 million bushels.

Washington State’s crop (fresh and processed) was pegged at 140 million bushels, which would make it the state’s third largest total crop ever. California’s crop was placed at 4.8 million bushels, a 33 percent drop from 2012.

Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the ­Washington Growers Clearing House Association, spoke for the western region, saying that California had 14 days of temperatures over 100 degrees and the crop was 14 days early, leading to the lower estimate. Washington growers had endured heat, sunburn, and hail, and apple size was ­variable.

Phil Glaize, grower from Winchester, Virginia, spoke for the eastern growers. “New York and North Carolina have come back after low crops last year,” he said. There were some “holes” in production of processing varieties like Golden Delicious, York, and Rome, but overall the crop was about 6 percent larger than average and of high quality, he said, describing it as a ­manageable crop. Eastern production was up 39 percent from the frost-damaged crop of 2012.

Mike Rothwell of BelleHarvest Sales in Belding, ­Michigan, said the crop in the Midwest was 472 percent of last year’s, led by Michigan’s 996 percent increase from 2.7 million bushels in the frost-decimated 2012 crop to at least 30 million bushels this year. Michigan had near crop failures in 2008, 2010, and 2012. “We can manage 10 percent fluctuations,” he said, “but 996 percent! That’s goofy.”

The state is, however, preparing for a bigger future and more even production, he said. Growers have put in crop protection, mostly wind machines, to protect the many new plantings.

“We knew this was coming and started selling in January,” Rothwell said. “We cut our sales and marketing team loose. We want to get deeper into exports. There have been a lot of infrastructure changes, packing line changes, a lot of money going into new sorters, new packing lines, new storages, preparing for a larger crop going forward.”

World apples

Philippe Binard, from the World Apple and Pear Association in Brussels, put apple production in Europe at 10.8 million metric tons (565.6 million bushels), 7 percent higher than 2012.

Poland produces about 30 percent of the European crop, followed by France, Italy, and Germany.

Michael Choi, president of Zhonglu America Corporation, estimated the Chinese crop at 37.5 million metric tons, a decrease of 2.6 percent after several years of continually rising output.

That’s 1.8 billion bushels. China grows about 54 percent of the world’s apples. Domestic consumption is growing in China, and investments in storage are making apples a year-round fruit for the Chinese, Choi said. Some 81 percent of China’s apples are consumed fresh in China, he said.

Production in Mexico this year was pegged at 29 million boxes, a huge increase from the normal crop size of 19 million, according to Luis Moreno, president of Grupo M, a marketing company in Mexico. Normally, Mexico imports about 11 million bushels to satisfy consumer demand of 30 million boxes.

The number suggests that no imports would be needed this year, but since Mexico has limited storage capacity, by February the domestic crop must be largely gone. The market should stabilize by February, Moreno said, and U.S. shippers should have access to the market starting in midwinter.

The apple crop in Canada was estimated at 22.6 million bushels, up 55 percent from last year, when production in Ontario was greatly reduced by freezes. Don Werden, with the Norfolk Fruit Growers Association in Ontario, said Ontario was back on track with a crop of 10 million bushels coming. British Columbia’s crop is down 18 percent from early frosts to about 4.6 million bushels. Nova Scotia is up 11 percent to 2.1 million bushels. Quebec’s crop is 5.8 million bushels and may go to 6.0 million, and New Brunswick’s 32 growers will contribute 157,000 bushels, Werden said.

The crop in Canada is clean and sizing well, he said, and is 28 percent McIntosh.

The South American crop is already in the market, with 685,000 metric tons coming from Argentina, 1.5 million metric tons from Chile, and 1.3 million metric tons from Brazil. Total production in bushels is 183.3 million. •