KENNEWICK (AP) — Washington apple growers are expecting a bumper crop this year as workers begin harvesting the fruit from trees around the state.
Hail in July tempered initial expectations for a record-setting 120 million bushels of fresh apples. But this year’s crop of apples is still expected to be the state’s second largest, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.
The amount of fresh apples harvested is expected to be nearly 109 million bushels, the Tri-City Herald reported. It takes about 43 pounds to make a bushel.
Washington’s harvest is bucking the national trend this year. Across the Northeast and Upper Midwest a series of below-freezing nights in April zapped buds that had sprouted during a rare summerlike stretch the previous month, decimating cherries, peaches and other tree fruits. While some apple orchards in these areas escaped relatively unscathed, many are producing only a small fraction of their normal output and some are coming up empty.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the nationwide yield will be about 14 percent below last year’s and the smallest since 1986. A slight uptick in Washington and other Western states will help grocers compensate for the decline east of the Mississippi.
Apple harvest runs into November, with different varieties being picked as harvest continues.
“The fruit quality looks good, fruit size looks good,” said David Douglas, a principal owner of Douglas Fruit Co. of Pasco. The company packs 10 varieties of apples grown by members of the Douglas family and other independent growers.
Washington is the top apple grower in the nation, representing about 60 percent of U.S. fresh apples. Apples contribute about $7 billion annually to the state’s economy, Fryhover said.