Tree fruit nurseries are wondering how the global economic recession might affect a recent apple-planting boom in Washington.
"I think it will slow down," said Dale Goldy of Gold Crown Nursery, in Quincy, Washington, though he thinks the industry is still trying to figure out what the implications of the recession will be.
In uncertain economic times, growers might hesitate to plant a new orchard, which can require an investment of $20,000 to $25,000 when the cost of land is included.
Ron Everts at Brandt’s Fruit Trees, Inc., in Yakima, Washington, said there is some concern about the global economic situation as well as about Washington’s large 2008 crop (estimated at 113 million packed boxes), but the nurseries will have a better idea after the winter horticultural meetings what impact those factors might have on nursery tree sales.
Pete Van Well II at Van Well Nursery in East Wenatchee, Washington, hasn’t yet noticed any effects of the general economic downturn. He thinks plans to replant an orchard would be the first to be impacted if growers were trying to reduce expenditures. Growers can’t stop spraying or doing other critical tasks, but they could cancel orders for trees to be delivered in the future. "We’re in some ways one of the leading indicators," he said.
However, as of November, sales were running ahead of a year ago and the nursery had received no cancellations. "I’m not as worried as maybe I should be," Van Well commented.
Despite the record apple crop, there is optimism that prices will remain relatively strong, he said. "When you get a big number, there’s always concern, but we have the right mix of apples and products, and I think the quality is there. We really have a good product. I still think it’s really optimistic."
Cameron Nursery mainly grows trees on contract, and most of the trees that will be delivered in 2009 were ordered two years ago, before there was any sign of a recession. But marketing director Paul Tvergyak, a former Washington State University Extension agent, said he once analyzed historical apple prices with former WSU ag economist Dr. Tom Schotzko, and they found that during general recessions fruit prices tended to go up and stay there.