Hail storms in July reduced Washington's potential apple crop by several million boxes. (Courtesy of Washington State University

Hail storms in July reduced Washington’s potential apple crop by several million boxes.
(Courtesy of Washington State University

Washington growers expect to harvest just under 109 million boxes of fresh-market apples this fall, a significantly smaller crop than producers were forecasting earlier in the season.

Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, said that in July his board members had estimated the crop anywhere from 110 to 128 million boxes, but that was before the state’s apple growing regions were hit by widespread hail storms. “I think there could be 5 million boxes of hail-damaged fruit, and that could be on the low side,” he said.

The estimate of 108.8 million packed boxes would make the crop the second-largest ever, behind the 109.5 million harvested in 2010. The 2011 crop was 108 million boxes.

Jon DeVaney, executive director the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, which compiles the crop estimate in the Yakima district, reported that the August estimate is usually a reliable indicator of the final fresh crop, but this year’s estimate was complicated by the hail damage, and it could be adjusted by several million boxes in either direction, depending on how much hail-damaged fruit meets market standards and on the prices offered by processors. Processing prices are expected to be high this season because of extremely short crops in Michigan and eastern apple growing areas.

The New York Apple Association reported this week that the state’s crop is forecast at 14 million boxes, down 54 percent from the five-year average production

Fryhover said the marketing outlook for Washington seems very positive this season. In addition to the shortfall in apples from other U.S. regions, the European crop is forecast to be down 9 percent and Chile is cleaning up its supplies.

“In my opinion, Washington apple growers aren’t going to have enough product to keep everyone happy,” Fryhover said.

This is likely to lead to high prices, which could impact exports, particularly in markets such as India, where a 50 percent tariff is imposed.

The August forecast puts Washington’s Red Delicious production at 31.2 million boxes, the lowest volume since 2003. Gala, Washington’s second most important variety, is forecast at 23.3 million, Fuji at 15.6 million, Granny Smith at 13.9 million, and Golden Delicious at 10.8 million. Washington’s 2012 Honeycrisp crop is forecast at 4.3 million boxes, a 52 percent jump from two years ago.

The organic crop is forecast at a record 7.3 million boxes, up from 6.6 million last season and 6.8 million in 2010.

Industry leaders will discuss the national crop and the international outlook during the U.S. Apple Association’s annual Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago, August 16 and 17.