by TJ MULLINAX
The U.S. Apple Association this week 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 August 23, Western growers argued that the size of the Western the 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.
In total, the 2013 apple crop size was placed at 243.3 million bushels, down from 246.5 million estimated earlier.
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’s crop was pegged at 140 million bushels, down from 143.9 estimated earlier. California’s crop was placed at 4.8 million bushels, down from 5.5 million previously estimated.
Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House, spoke for the Western region, saying that California had 14 days of temperatures over 100 degrees and the crop was 14 day early, leading to the lower estimate. Washington growers had endured heat, sunburn, and hail, apple size was variable—and thus the crop was smaller, but still the second largest crop on record, Kelly said.
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—“a manageable crop,” he said. Eastern production was up 39 percent from the frost-damaged crop of 2012.
Mike Rothwell of BelleHarvest Sales in Belding, Michigan, said the Midwest crop was 472 percent of last year’s, led my Michigan’s 996 percent increase from 2.7 million bushels in the frost-decimated 2012 crop to 30 million bushels this year—at least.
Michigan had near crop failures in 2008, 2010, and 2012. “We can manage 10 percent fluctuations,” he said, “but 996 percent! That’s a hundred times. 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. 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.”
No USDA number
This year, after some funds at U.S. Department of Agriculture were sequestered, USDA eliminated its apple crop forecasts, one of which, August 1, traditionally set the benchmark. So this year, U.S. Apple is the only organization in the apple crop estimating picture.
Mark Seetin, U.S. Apple’s director of regulatory and industry affairs, said he thinks the organization is up to it. But, he told Good Fruit Grower, the USDA plans to restore its crop reports and has included funds in its proposed budget for next year. Problem is, no budget has been passed by Congress, and no Farm Bill either.
World apple crop
U.S. Apple’s annual August event in Chicago this year drew 320 people from all over the world, with reports detailing production in China, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and South America, as well as the United States.
Phillipe Binard, from the World Apple and Pear Association in Brussels, put apple production in Europe at 10.8 million metric tons, or 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 Zlonglu America Corporation, estimated the Chinese crop at 37.5 million metric tons, down 2.6 percent—for the first time in 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 the Mexico-based marketing company Grupo M. 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, a spokesman said. U.S. shippers usually sell their apples through the growing network of supermarkets and chains, and should have access to the market starting in mid-winter.
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.