(June 25, 12:30 p.m.) Fresh apple volumes from New York could be down by a third due to hailstorms in mid-June.

The Empire State’s sweet onion crop fared much better, with losses of 5% expected.

Hail June 17 could reduce fresh apple volumes by 5 or 6 million bushels, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.

The fresh crop was forecast to be about 17 million bushels this year, he said. Damaged apples slated for the fresh market could be sold to processing markets, though some fruit was too damaged even for those, he said.

Apples that do make it into the fresh market will have no quality problems, Allen said.

“We’ll have 12 million bushels going in to markets in great shape,” he said.

On June 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24 for carton tray packs of controlled-atmosphere red delicious 72-125s from Washington, up from $16-18 last year at the same time.

The bulk of the damage came in Wayne County, New York’s top apple-producing county, Allen said. Up to 70% of the apples grown there for the fresh market will go to processing or won’t be sold.

New sorters installed this year by some growers will help better grade product this year, deciding what can be salvaged for fresh, Allen said.

Where the hail hit sweet onion fields, it leveled crops, turning 18-inch plants that had just started to bulb into stubs, and leaving piles of hail 5 inches deep, said Jim Zappala, president of Zappala Farms LLC, Cato, N.Y., and the developer of the Empire Sweets sweet onion variety.

Fortunately, that was just one field, Zappala said.

“We lost a small block, but we’re pretty diversified across New York,” he said. “The rest of the crop looks fantastic.”

The lost onion field, which has already been replanted with soybeans, accounted for just 5% of the company’s sales, Zappala said.

Zappala Farms is the exclusive grower of Empire Sweets.

Harvest should begin the first week of August, Zappala said, with little domestic competition and strong markets expected.

“Our season will come behind Vidalia’s, and I think our competition will be all offshore,” he said. “We’re very excited.”

On June 24, the USDA reported prices of $14 for 40-pound cartons of jumbo Vidalias, down from $16-18 last year at the same time.

Smaller-volume crops damaged by the hailstorms in New York included strawberries, cherries, peaches, pears and plums, according to a news release from Gov. David Paterson’s office.

New York tallying losses to apple, onion crops
Hailstorms in mid-June took a toll on various New York crops, including sweet onions, which should see an overall loss of 5%. "We lost a small block, but we’re pretty diversified across New York," says Jim Zappala, president of Zappala Farms LLC, Cato, N.Y.