Aug 15, 2022
Washington’s fresh apple crop is smaller, but growers optimistic

Washington State’s 2022 fresh apple crop is projected to be 108.7 million 40-pound boxes, a drop of 11.1% drop from the previous crop, according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

The association released it fresh-crop production estimate on Aug. 15; the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 12 reported its pre-season estimate of 162.5 million 40-pound boxes of apples for fresh and processing markets. That’s a 4% drop from the 2021-22 apple season, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Washington’s drop in volume was expected due to heat last summer and a cold, wet spring this year. A May estimate from growers put the crop at 105 million-115 million boxes.

According to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA), however, the industry is growing more of what consumers prefer: newer branded varieties and organic apples.

Courtesy WSTFA

“We are pleased with the size of the harvest, particularly in the face of a long, cold spring,” Jon DeVaney, WSTFA president, said in a news release. “Growing seasons are never the same, and currently many WSTFA members are still evaluating the impact of prolonged cold weather and ongoing crop development.

“Weather is always a factor, and some varieties still have several months of growth ahead,” DeVaney said in the release. “However, our members are to be congratulated for once again managing this uncertainty to deliver a strong harvest for the benefit of our state, country and ultimately the world.”

The estimate shows that five popular apple varieties make up the majority of the harvest. Gala leads production at 20%, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp are each projected at 14%, followed by Granny Smith at 13.4%, and Fuji at 12.7% of total production. Cosmic Crisp, a proprietary varietal grown only in Washington state, continues to grow in its share of the total crop. This year, Cosmic Crisp is 4.6% of the harvest, up from 3.2% last year.

“The strong harvest estimate for these varieties, which have been popular with domestic and international consumers, is good news,” Devaney said in the release. “Apples are synonymous with Washington state, and our members are set to deliver another year of high-quality and delicious fruit.”

Washington apples are sold in more than 40 countries and are a centerpiece in domestic grocery produce departments. They are also vital to the state’s economy and are its leading agricultural commodity. Apples represented 20% of the state’s farm-gate agricultural value in 2020. On average, 30% of the harvest is exported.

Washington also leads the nation in the production of organic apples with more than 90% of the country’s output. The organic forecast for 2022 is 14.4 million boxes, which is 13% of the total harvest. According to the WSTFA, not all organic production is packed and marketed as organic.

“Apples are a symbol of Washington,” Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said in the news release. “Wherever I go in the world, the minute I say I’m representing Washington, people tell me how much they love our apples.

“The apple harvest is also vitally important to our state’s economy, representing approximately $7.5 billion in annual economic impact,” Sandison said in the release. “Although they have faced many challenges this year, I wish the workforce and the state’s growers success as they begin another great harvest.”

The apple harvest estimate is based on a survey of WSTFA members and represents the best forecast of the total volume of apples that will eventually be packed and sold on the fresh market (excluding product sent to processors). Apple harvest typically begins in August and continues into November, and as a result, this forecast is still subject to several months of variable weather which can affect the final harvest total.

The U.S. Apple Association will give its crop estimate on the second day of the Aug. 18-19 annual Outlook Conference in Chicago. Chris Gerlach, director of industry analytics at U.S. Apple, will present the association’s production forecast and associated industry insights.

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