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Organic apples from a fourth leaf Buckeye Gala planting is harvested from the New Royal Bluff Orchard in Royal City, Washington, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Gala is expected to overtake Red Delicious as the state's number 1 variety by volume this year. <b>(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Organic Galas are harvested from the New Royal Bluff Orchard in Royal City, Washington, in August 2018. This year’s crop is coming in smaller than expected. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Washington apple growers have officially confirmed their suspicions of a 2018 crop coming in lighter than they originally anticipated by announcing a revised harvest forecast of 116.9 million fresh 40-pound box equivalents.

That marks an 11 percent drop from their estimate of 131 million fresh boxes on Aug. 1, when the Washington apple industry typically releases its annual crop prediction. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association, based in Yakima, announced the change to its industry members last week.

The organization had been hinting of a smaller-than-expected crop in late August during the annual Apple Outlook Conference, an industry meeting in Chicago. Once harvest began this year, growers discovered variable crop load on trees and between trees, as well as variable maturity within each orchard, Jon DeVaney, president of the group, said at the time.

All major varieties seem to be affected, based on the organization’s revised figures.
Annual crop predictions are always, by definition, best estimates and subject to change as the harvest progresses. However, the variance was larger than usual this year, prompting the organization to ask its members to revise their estimates for a second official summation.

by Ross Courtney