British Columbia apple growers are nervous about Washington State’s tremendous production capacity. Washington’s apple crop is down slightly this season at an estimated 95 million boxes, but B.C. growers fear that next year could well bring another 100-million-box-plus crop from their neighbors to the south.

“Can our industry survive if nothing is done to curtail that massive production juggernaut that’s there?” asks Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.

Canadian fruit growers are preparing to file an antidumping complaint alleging that some Washington shippers exported fruit to Canada during the 2004-2005 season at below the cost of production-as low as $10 or $11 a box-causing a price slump for Canadian apples. The Washington crop that year was a record 104 million packed boxes.

Washington exported 5.3 million boxes of apples to Canada in 2004-2005, up from 3.9 million the previous year, Washington industry statistics show.

For the previous three years, Canadian growers had easily been covering their production costs, Sardinha said. Suddenly, their returns dropped by 40 to 60 percent, depending on their varietal mix. The average return in 2004 across all varieties was 12.4 cents per pound (Canadian), down from 22.3 cents in previous years.

“That has a huge impact on our industry, and that’s why growers are very frustrated,” he said.

Canada is a net importer of apples. “We accept the fact that we’re going to get imports,” he added. “But when the rubber hits the road is when imports are so significantly higher from one year to the next that they cause this huge price slide for all concerned. It’s a supply and demand situation.”