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U.S. grown apples in Selah, Washington, on October 5, 2016. <b>(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

U.S. grown apples in Selah, Washington, on October 5, 2016. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

The value of the dollar and the increasing size of the apple crop in other countries — boosting competition on the export market — may pose some challenges for packers and shippers in the coming year.

However, the domestic market continues to be a bright spot for the U.S. apple industry.

Except for last year, U.S. apple consumption has grown each year since 2010, and when you factor in all the new varieties that consumers have to choose from, the U.S. market should continue to be strong, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

“The producers are realizing that you have to provide really good quality fruit if people are going to buy them, and they are doing well,” he said.

Internationally, there may be some hurdles U.S. growers will have to overcome, including the value of the dollar, he said.

A resurgence of the crop in Canada, possibly the biggest crop in history in Mexico, the potential for the third-largest crop in history in the European Union and another large crop in China together create a very competitive international marketplace.

The Russian embargo on fruit and vegetables from the European Union means Poland, with a heavy emphasis on older varieties, will be seeking new markets, he said.

Vietnam, which focuses on the food safety aspect of U.S. products, is a great market, and Indonesia and India are good markets as well. Of course, he said, the European Union and China will be shipping there, too.

China exports about 80 million boxes of apples, a fraction of its 2 billion-box fresh crop, but the country is fairly one-dimensional at 70 percent Fuji, Fryhover said.

That means U.S. Red Delicious are maintaining export interest, something growers might have thought would be hard 10 or 15 years ago, he said.

“Another thing to keep in mind: It is the one variety that we can produce and pack the least expensively, so it gives us a competitive advantage in the international marketplace over some of the higher value varieties,” he said. “We need to find a level for Reds, but I think we’re really close to it.”

– by Shannon Dininny