Big apple crop moving quicklyU.S. apple grower-shippers continue to enjoy brisk movement of big apple crops.

The robust demand Washington grower-shippers enjoyed in late 2013 has continued into early 2014, said Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of Yakima, Wash.-based FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC.

“Movement has been excellent — a little better than we expected over the last couple of months,” Mathews said.

After devastating freeze losses in 2012, New York growers are enjoying a very strong comeback season, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.

“I can’t think of anything less than a record crop,” he said. “The odds are it will be above 32 million boxes. Movement has been very brisk.”

Mother Nature has been more kind to the 2013-14 U.S. apple crop than to other fruits, Allen said.

“Unfortunately some other commodities have taken a hit, and there are opportunities for apple markets to continue to grow.”

Mathews said the market in mid-February had reached a nice equilibrium between returns for retailers and growers, and he didn’t expect major fluctuations in prices.

Despite the brisk movement and a smaller crop from last season, FirstFruits is in a good position to finish off the season, Mathews said, though some varieties will start to wind down earlier than in past years.

“Galas have moved well and the crop’s not as huge, so we’ll probably run out sooner than people would like.”

New York growers also have moved quickly through their gala crops, Allen said. Mcintosh and empire volumes were right on schedule as of mid-February, but some growers will holding more jonagolds and other varieties than they would like, he said.

Some coloring issues on red delicious and fujis could lower prices somewhat on those varieties, as could smaller sizing on granny smiths, with more bagged product likely, Mathews said.

Sizing in New York was running above average as of mid-February, Allen said.

New York should have a fairly normal end to its season, with some growers shipping into July and others winding down in June or late May, Allen said.