Apple-growing regions across the United States are reporting full crops this season.
The U.S. Apple Association estimates the total 2009 national apple crop (fresh and processing) at 235 million boxes, in line with five-year average production.
Washington State’s total crop of 132 million boxes is a 4 percent drop from last year and is 2 percent lower than the five-year average. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimate of the entire crop was 151 million, but Dan Kelly, assistant manager at the Washington Growers Clearing House Association, said the industry does not think all the apples on the trees will be harvested. Growers are likely to leave fruit unpicked rather than send it to the processor, because of low processing prices. In early September, prices for both juice apples and peelers were as low as $10 a ton. The Washington industry estimated the fresh crop to be 107 million boxes.
California’s crop is estimated at 7.5 million boxes, a 13 percent drop from last year. Half the state’s apples are processed.
Michigan will have a full crop for the first time in several years, Kelly reported. Recent crops were affected by weather-related problems. This year, growing conditions were better than they’ve been in awhile, with plenty of moisture. The USApple forecast is for 26 million boxes, an 82 percent increase from last year. Michigan’s five-year average production is 17.8 million boxes. About a third of the crop is sold fresh.
New York is expecting to harvest 30 million boxes, about the same as last year. About half of the crop goes to the fresh market.
Kelly said the outlook for the fresh market is good. The only state with a significant increase in total apple production this year is Michigan, which focuses primarily on the processing market.
He expects that pricing for fresh apples in Washington will be better than last year, assuming that fruit size is in the normal range. Last year, there was an abundance of small fruit.
"Everybody expects we will have a better manifest to work with," he said. "If we’d had a better manifest last season, the pricing structure would have been better, I’m pretty sure.
"I think the critical function for the Washington crop is how it’s harvested," he added. "We’re assuming that people are going to be more selective in their picking and sorting out of the bins."