A sobering picture emerged from the afternoon session of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s Annual Meeting on Monday as the industry faces surging costs of production and prices that don’t seem to keep up.
The fruit industry has some great times ahead … after it goes through some bad times, said Ken Ballard, vice president of Northwest Farm Credit Services.
“Let’s survive this down turn,” Ballard said.
The average cost to produce high-yield apples was about $139 per bin and $12,550 per acre in 2017, according to Ballard. That will rise to $14,206 and $158 per bin in 2021.
At those costs, Honeycrisp was the only variety to generate enough returns to cover costs in a 2019 apple enterprise budget drafted by Washington State University economist Karina Gallardo. Gallardo crunches numbers based on labor, chemicals and other inputs every few years to help growers estimate costs. She also included Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji and Cripps Pink.
Other presentations were panel discussions on real-time labor management tools, navigating private equity and a numbers-heavy panel discussion on target costs and yields for a apples, cherries and pears. One of the questions involved replanting. For example, Travis Allan of Allan Bros. Fruit estimated a cost to replant a high-density apple orchard was $60,000 to $65,000 per acre.
“It’s a tough time for the industry,” Allan said.
—by Ross Courtney
Take a look at our story about the type of technology Durfey and Britton discussed: Working day to data in the orchard