Mid September, I had the opportunity to travel to China on the Washington State Governor’s Mission. Prior to the mission, Washington Apple Commission Chairman Frank Davis and I visited Shandong Province and I would like to share these details with you.
Yantai is a coastal city lying southwest of Dalian and northwest of Beijing. We drove approximately 120 km from Yantai into Shandong Province to the packing facility of Alpha Fruit Packers. Approximately 40 km outside of Yantai, we entered the second-largest apple growing region in China, Shandong Province, where 27% of all Chinese apples are grown. Production of apples for other provinces include Shanxi, 7%; Shaanxi, 25%; Gansu, 5%; Hebei, 9%; and remaining provinces 27.
The Shandong area would be similar to New York from the perspective of rainfall and lack of irrigation—and no frost protection. All apples are ‘bagged’ for insect protection. During our visit, the Early Red Fuji was just beginning harvest with ample supplies available to be seen in the orchards as well as in packing facilities. The bulk of Fuji harvest was anticipated to start in 2-3 weeks.
During our brief stay, we visited three distinct levels of packing. The first being the modern facility with sizing capabilities that can meet protocols for the most difficult markets (EU & Canada). The second level is primarily sizing only with no washing capabilities (ME & domestic). The third would be orchard packing specifically for the domestic market. We can assume the third packing option is seasonal based on weather.
Next week – the competition.