There may be a record supply of Washington apples still on the market, but many if not most of them are on the small side, creating market demand for larger fruit from the Southern Hemisphere.

Giumarra of Wenatchee, Wenatchee, Wash., began importing galas from Chile in early March and galas from New Zealand in mid-April, said Tom Richardson, division manager.

Markets for both were steady in the first half of May, Richardson said.

“We’re starting to see the gala business start to pick up with the retail trade as the Northwest winds down,” he said. “Things are looking good.”

That’s despite the glut of Washington product this season. The reason that’s the case, Richardson said, is the dearth of large sizes this year. There may be a lot of apples still on hand, but they tend to be small.

“For the premium sizes, prices are pretty stable this year,” he said.

The advantage for importers, Richardson said, is they can choose which sizes to import to fill a specific need in the market.

Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, Calif., which imports a small number of apples from Chile, is seeing strong demand for big Chilean galas this spring, said Angie Eastham, West Coast sales manager.

Unfortunately, she said, the company didn’t have the foresight to anticipate strong demand for large import granny smiths.

“There’s a very tight market for grannys, but most of them are going to Europe,” she said.

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On May 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $24 for tray packs of granny smith 70s from Chile, down from $26-28 last year at the same time. Gala 90s from Chile were $20, down from $26-28 last year.

Following a short season in 2007-2008, New Zealand apple exports to the U.S. are projected to be up significantly this year for Giumarra, Richardson said. Chilean exports are expected to be up slightly, he said.
 
Through May 1, 1.5 million cartons of apples had been imported from the Southern Hemisphere year-to-date, according to the May Market News report from the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association.

That’s up from 832,000 cartons at the same time last year, but down from 2.5 million cartons in 2006-2007 and 1.7 million cartons in 2005-2006.

Giumarra of Wenatchee received its first shipments of braeburns from Chile and New Zealand the week of May 4, Richardson said. Fujis and Pink Ladies from the Southern Hemisphere should begin arriving later in the month, he predicted.

Early Chilean fruit didn’t have the pressures Richardson said Giumarra would have liked, but by early May that product had moved through the system and quality was good. New Zealand quality has been good throughout the deal thus far, he said.

On May 11, the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, received the season’s first shipment of New Zealand Enza-branded apples marketed in North America by Vancouver, B.C.-based The Oppenheimer Group, according to a port news release.

It’s the first time in five years Enza apples have been shipped through Wilmington. At least one, and possibly two more shipments would arrive in New Zealand this summer through Wilmington, said Tom Verbitski, Oppenheimer’s regional operations manager.