The New York apple industry will be more cautious in estimating its crop this year. Last year, the industry’s first official estimate of 27 million boxes turned out to be about 2 million boxes too high.
Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, said the first estimate is compiled by the association’s board members at a summer meeting. That used to take place in July, but in recent years has been moved up to June. Board members, who represent the whole state, report on what they see in their orchard, in terms of return bloom and growing conditions, and estimate how big the crop will be.
Last year, after the board estimated 27 million boxes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued its forecast of 27.5 million boxes a couple of weeks later, indicating that the industry estimate was on target. But at the U.S. Apple Association’s Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in August, New York industry representatives revised the estimate to 25 million, which appears now to be an accurate number.
The discrepancy between the two estimates raised concerns in the industry about putting out forecasts that overestimate the crop and alerting the buying community, Allen said. Some producers fear that reports of a large crop could put downward pressure on prices.
“We had some feedback that some people weren’t happy with the number and the fact that it was released,” he said.
Allen acknowledged that June is too early to be putting a number on the crop. “We can’t make an estimate in the middle of June. It’s impossible. A lot of things change from June until August.”
This year, the association will probably rely on some additional third-party sources of information about the crop, such as storage operators, processors, Cooperative Extension educators, and fruit scouts who work in various orchards across the state and might have more impartial views than the growing community, Allen said. And, it will probably wait until later in the growing season to announce the crop size.
But Allen said he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that the size of the crop shouldn’t be made public. Providing information to the press helps build consumer excitement about the new crop, he said, and he doubts that it negatively affects pricing.
“I think the buyers and sellers are talking, and the buyers are listening to what their supplier is going to supply to them. I think the last person who quotes the last price to that buyer is the one that sets the price. I don’t think they’re reading The Packer and saying ‘This is what I’m paying for apples this year, because it’s a large crop.’ I think it’s the marketing community that’s setting the price.”