(July 14) Northeast apples are coming up on another solid season, though not a repeat of last year’s banner performance, growers say.

“We’re down a little bit from last year, which was a once in a lifetime crop,” said Jeff Crist, owner of Crist Bros. Orchards Inc., Walden, N.Y. “We’re expecting a good, steady, normal volume.”

He said his company would start harvesting some varieties in early August, with gingergolds and galas coming off the tree in the last week of August. New York growers will continue picking until early November, as mcintosh and empire varieties mature.

He said the region received some needed rain in early July, and sizing had since surpassed average for this time of year.

Pennsylvania apples had a little more rain and will be about a week ahead of schedule, said Lee Showalter, owner of Five Forks Fruit, Waynesboro, Pa.

He said his company would begin picking in mid-August and finish in mid-October. He said volumes would be down about 10% from last year.

“It looks as though the old crop is cleaning up pretty well, and we’re hopeful that will lead to some relatively high opening prices,” he said.

In 2003, the Appalachian district — which includes Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland — shipped almost 55 million pounds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New York shipped 28 million 40-pound bushels last season, and growers expect to ship 25million to 28 million this year, according to the New York Apple Association, Fishers.

Last year, apples from Appalachia opened on Aug.26 at $12-13 for 12 3-pound film bag cartons of gingergolds, according to the USDA. New York apples opened at $14 for the same package. By late September, prices had dropped $1 for both regions as supply increased.

On July 13, Washington apples were $18 for carton tray packs of 72-88s and $16-18 for 100s. Washington is shipping the last of its storage supplies.
Peter Gregg, spokesman for the New York Apple Association, said apples from Washington would still dominate the market, as Northwest growers generally outproduce their Northeastern counterparts five to one.

He said different varieties, crispness, flavor and a loyal customer base in the Northeast fueled the New York deal.

Gregg said the association was exploring several marketing outlets and had advertised on television on radio.

The Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, Harrisburg, is encouraging movement by rewarding retailers that sell the highest volume of Pennsylvania apples, said Diana Aguilar, executive director.

She said the program was also encouraging growers to include an Eastern apples sticker on their fruit. This step would help consumers differentiate the fruit in a supermarket setting, she said.