Washington’s apple crop is smaller than originally projected, in part because of a smaller red delicious crop, according to a November estimate.
But it’s still the 5th-largest crop on record, and that estimate could go up again in December, officials said.
About 102 million apples are expected out of Washington in the 2011-2012 season, according to a Nov. 1 estimate from the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and the Yakima, Wash.-based Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.
That’s down from an estimate of 106 million boxes on Aug. 1, said Charles Pomianek, the Wenatchee association’s manager. It’s not unusual for estimates to change from August to November, Pomianek said. And because of the late crop this season, there’s a good chance the Dec. 1 estimate could be higher, he said.
Prices were up over last year in early November. On Nov. 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for carton tray packs of red delicious 72s from Washington, up from $16-18 last year at the same time.
The estimate could go up to 104 million boxes, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Wenatchee-based Washington Growers Clearing House.
And even if doesn’t, the 2011-2012 crop is still big enough to meet demand, he said.
“Four million boxes sounds like a huge number, but as a percentage of 106 million, it’s not much,” he said.
Some blocks went unpicked because of a lack of labor, and some growers could lose fruit to cold because of the late harvest, Kelly said. But while individual growers will suffer, the overall effect on the size of the crop will be minimal, he said.
One reason for the lower estimate is a smaller-than-expected red delicious crop, Pomianek said. About 30.6 million boxes of reds are now expected out of Washington, down from 33.5 million in the Aug. 1 estimate.
“The reds just did not size,” Pomianek said.
Other varieties are closer to their August estimates. Fujis and Pink Lady estimates are lower, but they are late varieties, and their numbers could be up in December, Pomianek said.
The smaller size profile on reds will not hurt exports, said Rebecca Baerveldt, export marketing manager for the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission.
“In general, small-size reds are good for exports,” she said. “Most are looking for 100s and smaller, particularly in up-and-coming markets like India.”
And on the domestic side, the smaller red profile shouldn’t pose problems for marketers, Pomianek said.
“If it’s an 88 instead of an 80, consumers won’t notice,” he said.
Michigan shipped record volumes of apples in September and October, and part of that can be traced to the late start in Washington and to large quantities of red delicious and other varieties in the Wolverine State, said Denise Donohue, executive director of the DeWitt-based Michigan Apple Committee.
“We have a lot of red delicious this year, and we continue shipping to folks who maybe don’t have as much as they thought they’d get out west,” Donohue said.