The United States apple crop this year is strongly divided, east and west, into those who have, and those who have not, as Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs for the U.S. Apple Association, put it. Strangely enough, that is a worldwide phenomenon.
Canada, no surprise, mirrors the United States, with the haves to the West and the have-nots to the East. There is a good crop on the trees in the western province of British Columbia and virtually no apples in Ontario. There are apples, however, in the provinces further east of Ontario.
In the heart of Europe, there are apples in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Ukraine. Apple crops are much diminished all around the European perimeter from Turkey, Italy, and France on the Mediterranean Sea on the south, west through the English Channel to England, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and back east along the Baltic shore to Germany and Latvia.
China, as usual, is expecting a large crop, a record size crop, from a continually growing production base. The crop was pegged at 38.75 million metric tons. In bushels, that’s 2,031 million, about 10 times the U.S. crop size and more than half the world’s production.
Each year, USApple stages an elaborate meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago in August, inviting speakers from all over the world to talk about apple production in their region. Here are some of their reports:
The annual speaker is Michael Choi, president of Zhonglu America Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of one of the oldest and largest apple juice concentrate producers in China, with an annual output of 40 million gallons of concentrate.
China’s apple production last year was up 8.2 percent over 2010 and estimated at just under 36 million metric tons (1.89 billion bushels). Production has been increasing every year, Choi said, and is expected to increase again this year to 38.75 million metric tons (2.03 billion bushels).
Apple juice concentrate production is falling as China’s domestic market absorbs ever more fresh apples. Growers there are starting to hold more apples in storage, looking toward better profits from a longer fresh marketing period, Choi said.
This gradual withdrawal of China from the apple juice concentrate market has greatly strengthened prices for juice apples worldwide. Only 12 percent of China’s apples went into this market last year, as 82 percent went into China’s domestic market as fresh apples, Choi said.
The annual speaker is Leighton Romney, once CEO and now on the board of Paquime, a large family-owned grower, packer, and importer of apples, and also on the board of Unifrut, Mexico’s version of USApple.
The Mexican situation is always interesting, because it is the United States’s major export market, and the amount Mexico imports depends on how much it produces domestically.
Mexico is expecting a short crop this year, Romney said, about 10 million bushels. With domestic consumption pegged at 29.7 million bushels, that leaves a deficit of 19.7 million bushels. The Mexican apple and peach crop was heavily damaged by freezes. The United States is expected to take 47 percent of the 19.7 million bushel deficit, Romney said.
“Apples are expensive in Mexico, and will be more so this year,” he said, as prices will be higher because of the reduced production.
Much of Europe also experienced an early spring and then freeze events that cut its expected production from a normal 10.4 million metric tons (545 million bushels) by 9 percent to a forecast 9.7 million metric tons (491.4 million bushels).
Poland, in eastern Europe, is the largest producer and its crop is up 24 percent from its five-year average, or 146.7 million bushels. Italy, the second-largest producer with a five-year average production of 2.2 million metric tons (116 million bushels), is down 10 percent to just under 2 million metric tons (104.8 million bushels). France, the number-three producer, is down 29 percent from its five-year average of 1.6 million metric tons (85.3 million bushels). Germany, number four, has a near-normal crop of 933,000 metric tons (48.9 million bushels).
Just east and south of the core countries of the European Union, Turkey is a large producer and is just below its normal production, pegged this year at 2.4 million metric tons (124 million bushels). Russia is up slightly at 1.6 million metric tons (85 million bushels).
Of the European production of 511 million bushels, Golden Delicious is most prevalent, forecast at 116 million bushels, followed by Gala at 56 million bushels, and Red Delicious at 29 million bushels.
South America has four regions in which apples are produced, he said: one in Argentina, one in Chile, and two in Brazil.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, Alarcon spoke about a crop already in the market.
The Argentine crop was 966,000 metric tons (50.6 million bushels), with a third of it exported to Russia, Europe, and Brazil, and most of the rest consumed in the country.
Brazil has a strong and growing domestic market. “Most apples stay in Brazil,” Alarcon said. It is a large producer—more than half the size of Washington State—with 1.4 million metric tons (75.2 million bushels). Exports go mainly to Europe.
Chile is the biggest exporter to the United States. Its production was 1.5 million metric tons (79 million bushels), of which about half was exported, with 19 percent of that going to the United States.
Canada is expecting a crop of 14.1 million bushels, 32.6 percent below last year and the smallest crop in more than 20 years. The big drop occurs in Ontario, down 87.2 percent from its average 9.3 million bushels to 1.1 million bushels. Like Michigan and New York, Ontario endured a month of subfreezing April nights after a balmy March that brought bud break on March 19.
British Columbia’s crop is up 26 percent to an estimated 5.5 million bushels, with more than 600,000 bushels of it Ambrosia.
Nova Scotia’s crop is up just slightly, at 2.1 million bushels. Quebec’s crop, at 5.3 million bushels, is down 9 percent. New Brunswick, a small producer, has a crop down slightly at 167,000 bushels, Werden said.