Efrain Leyva harvests Gala apples in Gleed Washington on September 5, 2014. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)
The huge national apple crop has put tremendous down pressure on prices, but fresh shippers have done a great job even with the Washington record crop. And prices for juice and sauce apples have been firm, at least in the East.
That was part of Dawn Drake’s message to members of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Association at their annual meeting March 10.
Part of the reason prices for processing apples for juice and sauce have stayed strong, according to Drake, the secretary-manager of the association, were the “hard negotiations” last fall that—even in the face of a large crop—kept a floor under prices.
In early March, Washington State apples for juice were fetching 1 and 2 cents a pound, and peelers were moving at 3 to 4 cents. Juice apples in Michigan were selling for 11 cents a pound and peelers for 14 to 16.
The market for slices was weak, she said. “People just aren’t buying desserts like they used to,” she said. “Sauce and juice apples are doing so much better than slices.”
Drake speculated that the problem might be partly due to an underestimate of the size of the Washington crop by USDA. “The USDA estimated 173.8 million bushels, but it’s most likely closer to 200 million bushels,” she said. “They ran out of storage and fruit was left outside. Some out-of-condition fruit made it to the marketplace.”
These excess apples, plus the culls, put huge pressure on the processing market.
While members of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Association were disappointed at the time by the low prices they were able to negotiate last fall, processors agreed to pay $12.50 a hundredweight for hard varieties 2 ½ inches and larger and $10 for soft varieties of that size.
Prices have actually stayed above those levels. The association was not able to negotiate a price for juice apples, but prices in the East have remained much higher than in the West.
After growing up on a Michigan dairy farm, Richard Lehnert began writing about farming in 1962, while still a junior studying journalism at Michigan State University. He worked at newspapers for a year before joining the staff of Michigan Farmer, where he spent 26 years, the last 15 as chief editor. He was a member of the staff of Good Fruit Grower from 2010 until 2015.Read his stories: Story Index