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Overhead sprinklers cool ripening apples in the afternoon sun Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in Prosser, Washington. State growers estimate a 2017 harvest of 131 million 40-pound boxes. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

Washington apple growers expect a large, but not record, fresh volume for the 2017 harvest, which has begun in some of the earliest locations.

The industry estimates a crop of 131 million 40-pound boxes, or 2.6 million tons, for the fresh market, according to an annual forecast released Monday by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, based in Yakima. Washington produces between 55 and 75 percent of the nation’s apples depending on the year.

If that number holds, it would mark the third largest apple crop in state history, behind the 2014-2015 season and the 2016-2017 season, respectively.

However, the estimate can vary wildly from the final number. Washington apples come off trees well into November and ship through the following August. A lot can change over that time.

The estimate is based on what 50 packers and shippers expect to end up on the fresh market. They could miss that mark high or low, with more or less going to processing, depending on weather and global market conditions.

Red Delicious remains the most common variety with a projected 24 percent of production, followed by Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink.

Meanwhile, Washington expects to pack about 13 million boxes of organic apples, roughly 10 percent of the overall volume, also according to association statistics.

 

Photo cutline: Overhead sprinklers cool ripening apples in the afternoon sun Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in Prosser, Washington. State growers estimate a 2017 harvest of 131 million 40-pound boxes. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)