Ben Rice, plant manager for Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.,  with a box of the company's KIKU® apples, packed the week of Oct. 15.
Ben Rice, plant manager for Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co., with a box of the company's KIKU® apples, packed the week of Oct. 15.

Washington and Pennsylvania apple shippers are filling the gap left by major crop losses in Michigan and New York.

In mid-October local product was still dominating in markets east of the Mississippi, but reports are indicating shippers should run out sooner than anticipated, said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.

Many growers who thought they would be shipping through the end of the year likely won’t make it that far, Nager said. As a result, the demand for Washington product should increase sooner rather than later.

Steve Reisenauer, sales manager of Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., said that by the end of the week of Oct. 15, Sage’s harvest should be 75% completed.

By Oct. 15 Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co. was about three-quarters of the way through its harvest, said John Rice, vice president. Late-season fuji, rome and pink lady apples had yet to be picked, he said.

Volumes thus far are up to 20% more than expected, Rice said, which has been a boon, given the severe crop shortages in New York and Michigan.

“Movement has been very strong,” he said. “We’re definitely feeling the lack to our north an in Michigan. We have additional business on account of that.”

Demand at Sage was strong in mid-October, and should get even stronger when the company switches to controlled-atmosphere volumes on most varieties in December, Reisenauer said.

“Movement has been great, markets are stable and strong,” he said.

On Oct. 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $24 for cartons of galas 88s from Washington, down from $26 last year at the same time.

Nager also reported very strong demand in mid-October. Despite the shortages in the East, Washington should have a big enough crop to meet demand throughout the country and overseas at least into Spring 2013.

Fruit size is larger than normal, with varieties peaking on 100s and 88s, Rice said. That’s also been good news, since retailers tend to prefer larger sizes, he said.

To top it off, Rice Fruit’s crop is clean and has good color and overall exceptional quality, Rice said.

“It’s one of the best years we’ve ever had, quality-wise.”

Domex’s sizes were peaking on 80s and 88s in mid-October, Nager said. The company also was reporting good overall quality.

“The product is sizing well, and it’s pretty clean, aside from the hail-damaged fruit,” he said.

Sage reported excellent quality in mid-October, with apples peaking in the 72-88 range, just what retailers like to see, Reisenauer said.