Washington apple shippers and packers say this year’s fresh apple crop will reach record highs despite early worries about hail damage and not enough pickers.
The apple crop is expected to hit 121.5 million boxes, according to a recent poll by Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.
That number of 40-pound boxes is what Jon DeVaney, the association’s executive director, said they estimate based on what packers currently have in storage. It reflects the apples that they think will be packed for fresh market, and does not include processing apples.
The nationwide shortage of apples has spiked demand for Washington’s fruit, DeVaney said.
“We had a good perfect storm of crop size and market demand,” he said.
That means the industry can continue to expect good prices, bringing a large amount of money into the state economy from apples, he said.
Washington is the top apple grower in the nation, representing about 60 percent of U.S. fresh apples. Harvest continues this month, including Pink Lady and Fuji varieties.
A record crop sets Washington up to benefit, as other apple growing areas and other nations have not been as fortunate, said Dan Newhouse, state Department of Agriculture director.
“We are one of the few regions of the world that have actually had pretty ideal weather conditions this year,” he said.
Along with the sheer number of apples, the state also is seeing large, high-quality fruit, Newhouse said.
Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director for the Washington Apple Commission, expects the state will export less than the one-third of the crop that normally heads to foreign markets because of the increased demand within the U.S.
“I think we will be able to move this fruit both domestically and internationally at prices that will be quite good for the grower,” Lyons said.
Mexico is the No. 1 destination for exported Washington apples, followed by Canada.