(Nov. 30) With an estimated 10 million carton drop in shipments from last year, Washington state grower-shippers said they need and expect prices to improve.

“We just need better pricing this year and we should be able to achieve that,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash. “We have a little lighter crop, and we have great demand.”

Prices for Extra Fancy carton tray packs of red delicious from Wenatchee and Yakima growing districts were $12-14 for 72-125s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Nov. 29.

Goldens were $14-16 for 72- 80s, $14 for 88s, $13-14 for 100s, $12-14 for 113s and $11.50-12.50 for 125s.

Granny smith, including blush, were $16-18 for 72-88s, $15-16 for 100s, $14-15 for 113s and $13-14 for 125s.

Fujis were $22-24 for 72s, $20-22 for 80s, mostly $20 for 88s, $16-18 for 100s, $16 for 113s and $12-14 for 125s.

Braeburns were $20-22 for 72s, $18-25 for 80-88s and $16-18 for 100s.

Gala supplies were insufficient to support a market, according to the USDA.

While Washington state grower-shippers shipped about 105 million boxes last season, the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and Yakima Valley Grower-Shippers Association estimate growers will ship about 95 million 40-pound boxes this season.

As of Nov. 29, shipments of red delicious had decreased from last year’s 37 million cartons to 31 million cartons.

“Apples are alternate-bearing,” Pepperl said. “This is the down year, so there are some apples down in production, like the red delicious.”

Pepperl said he also expects a volume of 95 million boxes. It would make for a smooth transition to the next season, he said.

“The biggest thing is, we came out of last year’s crop clean as far as the storage and had very little carry-over,” Pepperl said. “The ideal circumstance is to have the crop all gone.”

As for fruit quality, Dave Carlson, president of the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission rates it as excellent but different from last year’s.

“We always say the quality is excellent,” Carlson said. “Last year, we had extremely large fruit. This year there is more of a range of sizing, more mid-size and small. The exception is gala, which is probably one size smaller than last year.”

In late November, Pepperl said Wenatchee District, Wash. apples were peaking at 88s and 80s.

Along with size, color has varied this fall as well, said Doug Pauly, operations manager at Wenatchee, Wash.-based Northern Fruit Co.

“It wasn’t quite as cold as we normally have it, so it’s not as much colorful,” Pauly said. “There weren’t as many real cold nights and the nights help snap color into the apples. But the plus side is the interiors of the apples are very good.”