(Dec. 4) Early markets for Washington apples are reflecting the nation’s shorter supply this season.

Washington shippers expect pricing to stay strong and increase further as supplies grow seasonally tighter.

Weather woes in the Northeast and Midwest helped trim the U.S. crop this fall. Washington also suffered from a freeze in late October, which hit mainly pink lady and fuji apples.

That freeze trimmed expectations for the Washington fresh crop, estimated at 88 million 42-pound boxes in August. By Nov. 8, the estimate was pruned back to 85.7 million, said Miles Kohl, manager of the Yakima Valley Grower-Shippers Association, Yakima, Wash. Last year’s final tally for the Washington fresh crop was 84.8 million boxes.

Now with limited fresh apple stocks nationwide, Washington stands to profit as the leading U.S. producer. As of early November, the state had 84% of the fresh apple holdings nationwide, said Robb Myers, sales manager for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash.

Galas have seen particularly strong markets. As of early December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the following f.o.b.s for controlled-atmosphere storage galas from Washington: 72s $26, 80-88s $24, 100s $16, 113-125s $14.

The same time last year, the USDA reported Washington gala f.o.b.s at: 72s $18-20, 80-88s $18, 100s $16 and 113s $12-13.

Galas have been moving well thanks to increasing popularity for the variety, said Roger Pepperl, director of marketing for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee. Myers agreed, adding that the variety is gaining more recognition from consumers.

“Movement continues to increase on those yearly,” he said.

Washington fujis also are seeing higher markets, with early December f.o.b.s for 72s reported at $24-26. Meanwhile, the same time last year, the USDA reported 64-88s at $18-20.

Pepperl said crop losses in Michigan and New York also were creating opportunities for Washington to fill the void on consumer bag business in those regions.

One challenge this season has been the size profile of the crop, Myers said. Washington has more apples sized 100 and smaller than usual, he said. Pepperl said that generally the state’s apples seem to be down by about one fruit size. Myers said retailers like to promote larger sizes during the holiday season.

In light of lucrative U.S. markets, Chilean exporters will be champing at the bit to send their apples to North America this spring, Pepperl said. The first arrivals of Chilean galas should come by late March or early April, he said.