(Sept. 29) FRESNO, Calif. — California apple shippers expect to run through their galas by mid-October, just as the state’s pink lady season starts.

Meanwhile, the state’s 2.45 million 40-pound carton crop of granny smiths was going strong in late September, and industry members said it’s the cleanest overall apple crop they’ve seen in half a decade.

“Last year, the market was extremely brisk, but this year, it’s been slow,” said John Hein, director of marketing for Kingsburg Apple Sales, Kingsburg. “You had more stuff on the market, which made it hard to get out of the gate because people were cleaning up their imports.”

Harvest started about two weeks earlier than normal, but growers weren’t able to capitalize on the early market because of Washington state’s granny smith carryover from the previous season and imports from Chile and New Zealand, said Kenton Kidd, president of the California Apple Commission.

Other varieties from the 2003-04 crop were also available from the East.

“We’re the earliest in the country to start with galas, and normally we’d have been out of them pretty close to the first of October, but this year it’ll probably be mid-October,” Kidd said on Sept. 28.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, imports of Chilean apples totaled 378 million pounds on Sept. 27. At the same time last year, the U.S. imported 213 million pounds.

“Definitely, we had a slower start, and I attribute that to the abundance of Chilean fruit on the market,” said Chris Lagorio, marketing director for Ace Apple Co., Manteca. “We had a window when we were earlier than normal, but it took us a good two weeks to get going. Movement has picked up, but prices are fair at best.”

Cartons of tray-pack extra-fancy granny smiths from the San Joaquin Valley on Sept. 27 were $20.50-23.50 for 72s, $20.50-22.50 for 80s, $18.50-20.50 for 88s, $14.50-16.50 for 100s and $12.50-14.50 for 113s.

Last year at the same time, extra-fancy granny smiths were $24.35-26.35 for 72s, $24.35 for 80s, $22.35 for 88s and $15.35-16.35 for 100s.