Aug 11, 2015
Washington apple crop estimate good sign for exports

The Washington State fresh apple crop estimate, released on Aug. 6, predicts that the 2015-16 harvest will be 125.2 million boxes. This would be the third largest crop in history and down 10.5 percent from the record 2014-15 crop. The Washington apple season officially begins Sept. 1, although harvest has already started on early Golden and Gala varieties in the state.

Another expectation of the 2015 season crop is a return to typical sizes. For the last two seasons, the Washington crop peaked with sizing one to two sizes larger than normal, creating challenges for export markets, which traditionally prefer smaller sized apples.

This is especially good news as new market opportunities have opened up in China, which agreed in the spring of 2015 to accept direct import of all varieties of apples from the United States. Washington apple shippers are gearing up for a rapid start to the season for Gala exports, a variety popular in China. Gala exports will be followed by other varieties as the harvest continues for Red Delicious, Granny Smith and others.

The 2014 export season was hampered by several challenges including the Russian ban on U.S. agricultural exports, the West coast port slowdown that hit just as the peak export shipment season began in October 2014, the recall of apples from a California packing facility for listeria monocytogenes contamination that provoked panic in Asian markets and a virtual apple market shutdown for several weeks in January, and the strong US dollar.

“With the West Coast port labor issues resolved, and the early start to the season, the export picture is certainly looking brighter.” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission. “The Apple Commission is preparing to start the promotional activities in about 25 markets this fall, with emphasis on early markets like China and Latin America.”

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