The apple market in the Northwest U.S. was heating up to historic levels in mid-August as 2010 storage supplies dwindled and the 2011 crop was running about 10 days behind normal harvest dates.
The market for premium red delicious fruit on Aug. 16 was $34.90 per carton on 88s and larger Aug. 16, up from about $20 per carton in mid-July and $20 per carton at the same time a year ago.
“There is just no fruit left,” said Charlie Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, Wenatchee, Wash.
Only 3.2 million cartons of reds were left on Aug. 15, compared with 3.8 million cartons the same time last year. Total Washington apples on hand were 4.6 million cartons on Aug. 15, down from 5.4 million cartons same time last year.
Shippers said there is a chance that supply will be gone before the new crop red delicious start later in September. New crop galas were expected to start in late August.
“We’re hoping to make it through the year to the next crop, but we don’t think we will make it quite that long,” said Ellie Tucker, saleswoman with Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash.
Tucker said granny smith were priced at $32 for premium goldens, $38 per carton on premium granny smith and $40 on premium fujis. At the same time last year, golden delicious were priced at $18-22 per carton.
Tucker said the market could climb higher yet as supplies are used up.
“There is an expectation in Washington state that we will finish red delicious apples before new crop starts,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Yakima, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co.
If that happens, Wolter said it would be a rare occurrence, she said. Most of us have never seen anything like that.”
“We’re cleaning up rapidly and going into a new year that is a little late,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers Inc.
Expectations in the industry call for a new crop of about 106 million cartons, but Pepperl said he feels it could hit 110 million cartons for the fresh market. He said the 2011 apple crop will have strong quality, representative sizes and a good mix of varieties.
Pomianek said the 2010 crop may end up packing out between 109 million and 109.5 million cartons for the market, which would beat the previous mark for Washington fresh apple shipments of 108.3 million cartons in 2008.
Desmond O’Rourke, president of Belrose Inc., Pullman, Wash., said the combination of a short inventory and a late crop will prop up prices, but he said shippers want prices to be at reasonable levels when new crop supply is at promotable levels.
A later crop of apples also makes marketers work to sell the fruit in a shorter season, O”Rourke said.
“Being two weeks late is like having a 5% bigger crop,” he said.