(July 15) VIENNA, Va. — Smooth.

When asked about the upcoming transition from the storage shipments to new crop apples, that’s how shippers and industry members respond, backed by recent storage figures that put the nation’s apple supplies at 26% lower than last year and 32% below the five-year average.

Supplies will still be adequate to meet the late-season demand, according to the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna.

“We’ve really hit our target numbers all year long, and I think it will clean up and lead into a good opportunity to start on the ’04 crop,” said Charles Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, which tracks fruit shipments for the district.

From east to west, shippers remained optimistic throughout the year, and summer movement has remained strong even as the apple association released its July 1 report, the last one until new crop figures are available in November.

Shippers held 9 million bushels of fresh-market apples on July 1 after moving 8.8 million bushels of fresh and processing apples during June, according to the association.

“Supplies are down 32% (from the five-year average), and that really speaks for itself in setting the stage, in setting the tone for a very strong market for the industry in the home stretch,” said Jim Cranney, association vice president.

Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association Inc., Wenatchee, said the state’s shippers received an average of $14.94 per carton of red delicious, for all sizes and grades, as of July 10.

A year ago, that number was $12.41. That trend carried through on all varieties, Kelly said, including galas, which sold for an average of $19.45, a carton, compared to $18.21 last season.

On July 14, Washington districts reported red delicious carton f.o.b.s at $18 for 72-88s, $16-18 for 100s, and $16 for 113-125s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chilean imports of granny smith cartons were $14-16 for 70-90s, and $12-14 for 100s and 110s.

Washington’s 2003-04 production was about 78 million cartons, compared to 88 million the previous year, Kelly said.