Packing-Apples-Olds-Station-Stemilt

Aug 24, 2023
U.S. apple crop forecast at 256 million bushels

The U.S. apple crop for 2023-24 is expected to top 256 million 42-pound bushels, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

USApple’s forecast is about 6 million bushels over the USDA’s annual forecast. The USDA released its report on Aug. 11 and USApple followed a week later at the organization’s annual Outlook Conference in Chicago.

 

Harvest in Washington started in late July. Photo courtesy Stemilt Growers.

Washington is forecast to produce 160 million bushels total,  a 9.1% increase from 2022-23 but 2% lower than the five-year average. Last season’s production of 146.19 million bushels in Washington came after a cold spring and snow that affected pollination during bloom.

The USDA put Michigan’s forecast at 27.4-million-bushel crop, a 15% drop from last year, which was a record overall crop of 32.38 million bushels. USApple, however, set its forecast almost 17% higher, at 32 million bushels, which would be another banner year, if those numbers hold true through the end of harvest. Growers are reporting a strong early harvest.

The USDA’s New York estimate is also a double-digit drop, at almost 20% lower in 2022-23, at 26.19 million boxes. As with Michigan, the apple group’s forecast is higher, at 28 million boxes, a difference of 7%.

Chris Gerlach, director of industry analytics for USApple, who presented the apple forecast during the association’s annual Outlook Conference Aug. 18 in Chicago, said the major western apple crops (Washington, California and Oregon) remained the same from USDA and USApple.

U.S. Apple Crop Estimate-23-24
Click to enlarge

USDA attributed Washington’s gain to significantly improved weather conditions compared to last year. In New York, USDA notes “a mild winter that weakened the cold hardiness of the apple crop followed by a very warm spring has caused the expected production to be the lowest since 2012,” with a drop of almost 20% from 2022-23.

Cynthia Haskins, president and CEO of the New York Apple Association, said that number seemed low, and that projections were about 28 million boxes, which is what USApple anticipates.

In Michigan, USDA commented that “there were no widespread spring frost damage events, and July precipitation enhanced fruit sizing.” Despite these favorable conditions, the agency estimated that Michigan’s production will fall by more than 15% to 27.4 million bushels coming off last year’s record production levels.

Varieties

The top ten varieties this season,* their percentage of the overall crop and the average of the five years preceding the current crop (both followed by percentage of overall production), in millions of 42-pound bushels, are:

  • Galas — 45.12 (18.1%), 49.4 (19.1%)
  • Red Delicious — 31.11 (12.5%), 41.98 (16.2%)
  • Honeycrisp — 27.7 (11.1%), 22.93 (8.9%)
  • Others — 25.33 (10.1%), 22.82 (8.8%)
  • Fuji — 25.16 (10.1%), 26.74, (10.3%)
  • Granny Smith — 24.69, (9.9%), 24.06 (9.3%)
  • Golden Delicious — 15.71 (6.3%), 16/95 (6.6%)
  • Pink Lady/Cripps Pink — 12.3 (4.9%), 10.48 (4%)
  • Cosmic Crisp — 9.38 (3.8), 3.09 (1.2%)
  • Rome — 7.03 (2.8%), 8.98 (1.2%)
  • McIntosh — 5.22 (2.1%), 6.59 (2.5%)

*According to USApple, USDA, California Apple Commission, Washington State Tree Fruit Association

Apple trade

SweeTango-Quincy-Stemilt-2
SweeTango apples in a Stemilt Growers orchard in Quincy, Washington. Photo of Courtesy Stemilt Growers.

According to USDA trade data, fresh apple exports totaled 36.2 million bushels in 2022 — a 7% decline over 2021 levels. At the same time, fresh apple imports also decreased by nearly 13% to 5.3 million bushels. This resulted in a 2.1-million-bushel decrease in the year-over-year balance of trade. While the U.S. still maintains a healthy net positive balance of trade, there is still much work needed to get back to the high-water mark set in 2018. In that year, total exports were 48.5 million bushels and the trade balance was 41.6 million bushels. That represents a decline in net exports of more than 10.6 million bushels in just four years with an estimated value of almost $110 million.

The major influence on a drop in export trade is the decrease of fresh shipments to India.

From 2018-22, U.S. exports to India declined by 7.7 million bushels — 63% of the total 12.2-million bushel decline over the period. In 2018, the value of these exports was more than $157 million. In 2022, the value was less than $4.8 million — a nearly $153 million loss to U.S. apple farmers. From January 2019 through June 2023, it is estimated that the loss of the Indian market has cost U.S. apple growers more than $658 million. 

Top photo: Courtesy of Stemilt Growers.




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