The Washington Apple Commission is focusing its export efforts this year on markets that have the potential to take more large-sized apples.
The commission is matching its strategy with the 2009 crop. The volume appeared to be below the initial industry estimate of 107 million boxes, commissioners reported at their October board meeting. Fruit size is relatively large.
In 2008, Washington produced 109 million boxes. Apple Commission President Todd Fryhover said everyone in the industry seems to be feeling optimistic this year, with the crop being smaller.
The industry’s October apple storage report showed that Golden Delicious apples came in 5 percent below the 11-million-box estimate and Gala 7 percent below the 21.6 million boxes forecast. Fryhover said it appeared that Red Delicious would be close to the estimate of 33 million boxes. Cold weather in October could have impacted later varieties.
Export markets that have the potential to take more large apples include Russia, northern China, Central America, northern India, and Canada. Fryhover said the commission’s representatives around the world are telling importers that there will not be an overabundance of small fruit this year, and prices for smaller sizes should be firm. They’ll be advising importers to purchase apples that are a size or two larger in order to obtain the quantities of Washington apples that they need, and reminding them that Washington produces many varieties in addition to Red Delicious. Cold weather in October could have impacted later varieties.
Fryhover sees good potential this season in Mexico, which takes a wide range of varieties and sizes. The local Chihuahua crop of Galas was sold out by fall, and Southern Hemisphere suppliers won’t be in the market until early next year. “The pipeline is dry,” Fryhover said. “We really feel there’s going to be more pull on Galas.”
The commission received $4.7 million in federal Market Access Program funds for this season, about the same as last year. The commission will also use $1.5 to $1.8 million of grower assessment funds. About $200,000 of the budget was set aside to allocate in the fall specifically to address the challenges of the current crop.
Fryhover said the export target for the 20092010 season is 30 million boxes, compared with 35 million last season. The industry expects a smaller crop and larger fruit to result in a strong domestic market this season.
Michigan has a large crop, but with plenty of fruit in the smaller sizes, such as 125 to 138, and will be the major supplier of bagged apples, he said. “We don’t think this is going to be an issue. We think they complement us more than anything else.”