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Recent travels to Chicago to attend the USApple Outlook conference have provided optimistic insights into the export opportunity, or more accurately ‘competition’, for Washington apples this season. Presenters from several countries provided apple estimates allowing for a global outlook on supplies:

  • EU down 11%
  • China down 4%
  • Mexico down 10%
  • Canada down 1.1%
  • US East Region down 14%
  • US Midwest Region down 35%
  • US West Region up 4%

[All volumes in comparison to 2009]

At first glance, it appears several of Washington State’s important export markets should have less domestic-grown apples providing opportunities for us. With the EU 27 showing a decreased crop volume, I anticipate Russia being an excellent destination for large Washington apples. In addition, Polish apples play a significant role with Russian consumer purchases, but their crop is down significantly, opening the door to Washington. For the first time in a decade, the Chinese apple crop is forecasted to be down, primarily due to cold spring weather. As China’s middle class expands, demand for apples will increase, providing Washington State with more opportunity in China as well as other Asian markets. Canada is a double-edged sword—the overall crop is down slightly, but the volume in British Columbia is up 25%. This will limit Washington’s B.C. sales opportunity, but will hopefully prove fruitful in Toronto and Ottawa.

The US apple crop is estimated to be down 6% as compared to last year. However, recent weather improvements across Washington and New York could provide a ‘firming affect’ to estimates. Interestingly, most major U.S. apple states are replanting or planting. For the first time in over a decade, the California apple industry is in an expansion mode.

Look ahead to a good 2010. Did someone say Mexico? Let’s talk next week.