Washington apple shippers are reporting large sizes and very brisk movement, and most think a hard freeze Oct. 10-11 had no or little effect on quality and volumes.

“Everything seems to be fine,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash. “We made it through and seem to be in good shape.”

Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International, Wenatchee, Wash., guessed freeze losses would be in the 1.5 million- to 2 million-box range.

“I don’t think there will be too big of an impact,” he said. “We’ll still have a very good, marketable crop.”

Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, agreed.

“We made out just fine,” he said. “We got all the fruit off the trees, and haven’t had any quality problems.”

Sounding a more cautionary note, Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, said, “There was definitely some impact. There are some condition issues on those still on the trees.”

Fruit hurt by the freeze will have to be packed and shipped quickly, Queen said.

October freeze spares majority of Washington apples

Courtesy Domex Superfresh Growers

Dave Gleason, chief horticulturalist for Domex Superfresh Growers, checks some fujis on Oct. 15 after a freeze. He was checking internal pressure, sugar and overall maturity to determine if they were ready to pick and how well they survived the frost.

“It won’t have the legs” for storage, he said.

By mid-January, however, most freeze-damaged fruit will be out of the pipeline and quality should be “spectacular” for the rest of the season, Queen predicted.

Pepperl said the crop would likely be in the 97 million- or 98 million-box range.

“It’s not going over a hundred,” he said.

Mast, however, put the estimate in the 100 million- to 105 million-box range. Queen pegged it at 98 million to 102 million.

Unlike last season, sizes are big this season, Pepperl said, which is paying off at retail.

“We’re getting good money for fruit, and a big reason is we have good sizes,” he said. “Size, in general, pays.”

Most varieties this season are peaking on size 100s and larger, and there are “a lot” of 64s and larger, Pepperl said. Many retailers are selling “jumbos” on ad leading up to Thanksgiving, he said.

“It’s some of the biggest fruit I’ve seen in years,” he said.

On Oct. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $16-18 for tray packs of red delicious 72-88s from Washington, down from $20 last year at the same time.

Both volumes and sales are showing double-digit gains over the year before, Pepperl said Oct. 27.

Sinks also reported strong demand and said prices were “holding steady,” though shippers are keeping a close eye on Michigan and New York, both of which have big crops this season.

Market-wise, things were looking up in late October, Mast said.

“It looks like they’re firming up,” he said. “We’ve seen very good demand, and movement out of the state has been excellent.”

Prices would likely begin to climb about the first of the year, due largely to lighter volumes because of the freeze, Queen said.