(Aug. 8) Washington apple shippers foresee a larger crop this season but a cleaner pipeline as packing gets under way.

One concern between now and harvest will be the size profile of the crop, held back partly by hot weather.

Recent estimates call for 88.8 million 42-pound boxes for the fresh market, said Tom Swearingen, advertising and public relations director for the Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee. That compares to 84 million boxes in 2001 and 98.3 million in 2000.

Still, Larry Olsen, president of Olsen Bros., Prosser, Wash., said he sees this season’s crop as a manageable one, especially compared to the 2000 and 1998 crops, which both had high volumes of red delicious apples. Shippers say Washington’s market also should benefit from lower volumes expected this season from the Midwest and Northeast.

This season, Washington should see higher percentages of newer varieties like fujis and galas, he said. Reds could increase slightly in volume from last year but as a percentage should continue to be smaller part of the crop, he said. Swearingen said volumes of reds will fall below last year’s levels and 20% lower than two years ago.

Markets also could gain strength this season from a new rule that will prohibit the sale of old crop apples beyond Oct. 1. That law, combined with 2001’s smaller crop, should leave supply lines fairly clean, Olsen said.

Last year, Washington had a carryover of 5 million bushels of red delicious apples into the new marketing season, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash. The absence of that 5 million bushels this season, along with further removal of Washington red delicious trees, could bolster markets for the 2002 crop, he said.

Robb Myers, sales manager for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, said galas probably will begin harvest the week of Aug. 19, about five days behind last year. Pepperl said he expected about the same timing.

Early markets for the galas could hit the mid-$20s and decline as volumes increase, he said. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following Aug. 27 f.o.b.s for tray-pack cartons of new crop galas: 72-88s $20-22, 100s $16 and 113s $14-16.

In early August, Pepperl said Stemilt Growers had red delicious, golden delicious and small volumes of granny smiths remaining from the 2001 fall crop. Columbia Marketing had reds and goldens left over, Myers said.

The USDA reported Aug. 5 f.o.bs for Washington’s remaining 2001 crop red delicious at $12-13 for 72s-125s. Supplies for golden delicious and granny smith apples were too insufficient to establish a market.

Myers said preliminary indications call for apples to be about a size smaller than last year, caused by a late bloom and consistently hot weather.

Between now and harvest, orchards need cooler weather, he said. Also, orchards without adequate overhead cooling could see more sunburnt fruit this season, he said.

Still, Myers said sizing would vary by shipper and variety. Plus, Olsen noted, it was still too early to know sizing for some varieties, such as fujis, which are at least two months away from harvest.

Pepperl said he expects higher volumes this season for cameos, which should begin harvest in mid-October.

Quality is improving as trees come into larger bearing, he said.