(Sept. 25) California apple shippers are seeing stronger prices for granny smiths this season, thanks partly to lower volumes of South African imports at the start of the season, they say.

Another factor was this season’s short crop in the Northeast, which could help fuel movement for California’s pink lady variety, said Mike Isola, salesman for Sierra Hills Packing Inc., Stockton, Calif.

Washington’s lower volumes and later harvest also helped strengthen California’s markets, he said.

The lower volumes of South African apples in the pipeline led to late August f.o.b.s of $28 per 40-pound cartons of size 88 granny smiths, said Andy Poteete, sales manager, Bidart Bros. Inc., Bakersfield, Calif.

Since then, as Washington’s harvest got under way, the market dropped to $20-24, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following Sept. 23 f.o.b.s for cartons of U.S. Extra Fancy granny smiths from California’s San Joaquin Valley district: 80s $24.35-28.35, 88s $22.35-24.35, 100s $16.35-20.35, 113s $14.35-16.35, 125s $10.35-12.35 and 138s $10.35.

Prices were noticeably lower the same time last year: 72s $17.35-18.35, 80s $16.35-17.35, 88s $15.35-16.35, 100s $13.35-14.35, 113s $11.35-12.35, and 125s $10.35.

On the other hand, California’s sizing is down this season, with granny smiths peaking probably around 100s and 113s, Poteete said. The California industry seemed to have smaller peak sizing but heavier volumes, he said, adding that he’d heard of similar trends in Washington.

Isola reported peak sizing on both granny smiths and fujis at 88s, 100s then 80s. The color and condition of the apples has been very good so far, he said.

Fuji harvest was just getting under way the week of Sept. 23 and should get into heavier volumes by early October. The fujis should see lower volumes because of a light bloom, Isola said.

Volumes of fujis are also down because of tree removal after poor markets the past few years, Poteete said. California has lost export markets for the fujis in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia as China has increased its exports .

On Sept. 24, Isola said cartons of size 88 California fujis were selling for $32-35 on the domestic market. Exported fujis were fetching f.o.b.s in the low $40s, he said.

As pink lady trees have been removed, volumes of the variety have dropped to more marketable levels, Isola said. Plus, this year, with fewer apples available from the Northeast, there will be more opportunities for pink ladies to gain consumer exposure and become more established in the market, he said.

Poteete said because of strong early movement the season for California’s granny smiths could be cut short. Usually, movement from controlled-atmosphere storage can continue through late January or mid-February, he said.

John Hein, director of marketing for Kingsburg Apple, Kingsburg, Calif., said the company had already finished its shipments of granny smith and gala apples by late September.