(Oct. 11) Consumer demand and a short 2005 storage crop are among the reasons for strong markets for a high-quality Northeast apple crop, grower-shippers and industry officials say.

New York broke a record for September shipments, and should break a record for the entire fresh season, predicted Peter Gregg, spokesman for the New York Apple Association, Fishers.

“It’s been spectacular, the best movement we’ve had in years,” he said. “The quality’s outstanding, and consumer demand for fresh apples has been very high. The apple category is on fire.”

New York growers shipped more than 200 loads a week in September, with 224 loads shipped in the last week of the month, Gregg said. So far, movement is up 20% over last year.

On Oct. 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $25-28 for cell-pack cartons of mcintosh 80s from New York, up from $20-21 last year at the same time.

Through Oct. 7, 46 million pounds of apples had shipped from New York year-to-date, up from 37 million pounds last year at the same time, according to the USDA.

Gregg said New York’s harvest should wrap up about Nov. 1, he said.

John Rice, sales manager for Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., reported a big crop of goldens with an unusually smooth, clean finish and high brix levels.

Movement on all varieties has been up at least 25% to 30% over last year, Rice said.

“We have more orders for the next two weeks than we’re able to pack, but we’ll find some way to get it done,” Rice said Oct. 11.