(Feb. 6) Brisk sales of Washington storage apples and pears could hasten shipments from New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, importers say.

With the New Zealand apple crop 10% bigger than last year and a normal-sized crop expected in Chile, retailers can look forward to a bounty of fruit this spring, as Washington storage supplies decline, said Fred Wescott, president of Honey Bear Tree Fruit Co., Wenatchee, Wash.

“All and all, we’re looking for good supplies out of the southern hemisphere this year,” he said.

Apples from New Zealand could be on the small side, Wescott said, but otherwise, he expected normal sizing and good quality from New Zealand and Chile, where the company sources apples, and Argentina, where it gets pears.

A strong fall and winter for Washington pipfruit could accelerate southern hemisphere deals, Wescott said.

“Movement has been very good in Washington,” he said. “We foresee retailers getting into imports a little sooner this year.”

On Jan. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $15-16 for carton tray packs of storage red delicious 72-125s from Washington, up from $12-14 last year at the same time.

Wescott should start receiving its first pipfruit shipments — galas from Chile and New Zealand — about April 1, a typical start to the import deal, but other importers could begin bringing product in closer to March 1, he said.

If too much product comes in early, it could be a problem, Wescott said.

“Historically, if one market looks good, a disproportionate amount of fruit gets targeted for it, and prices can come down,” he said. “Hopefully exporters won’t overreact.”

Still, Wescott expected “relatively good demand” for southern hemisphere fruit this spring. After galas kick off the deal in April, Pink Ladys and fujis pick up the slack in May. Wescott Agri Products sources simultaneously from Chile and New Zealand, depending on where the best-quality fruit is, Wescott said.

“Some retailers want only New Zealand, others want what’s most cost-effective,” he said.

Wescott’s South American pear deal should begin in February, with the bulk of product coming from Argentina, Wescott said. The company imports some specialty pears from Chile. Wescott expected good quality and volumes this year.