The U.S. may be munching through its apples more quickly than it has in the past, but good-sized crops this year mean there’s plenty for export markets.
“We’re having a record year in exports into the Caribbean, Central America and South America,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., Sparta, Mich.
Armock said things would likely slow down a bit in those markets after the Christmas holiday.
After that, Mexico, the Far East and Russia would pick up, he said. This is the first year Riveridge has exported to the Far East.
For Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee, Wash., Russia can be a potential market for larger fruit than many of the other countries will take.
“Most export markets like a smaller size, but you get into Russia and places like that and they like a premium-sized fruit,” said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing.
Galas are becoming a more popular export apple for the company, which expects to send more than a quarter of its crop overseas this year.
“We typically hover around 20-25%,” Mast said. “(Export) movement this season has been good.”
For Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, Jazz apples have been selling quicker than expected in Asian markets, said David Nelley, pipfruit category manager. Pacific Rose, another club variety, is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China.
“We’re also sending a lot to Russia. It seems to be picking up,” Nelley said. “You have to be careful who you sell to, but Russia seems to be recovering.”
The company has Jazz and Pacific Rose from Washington this time of year, and ships from New Zealand May through October.
A fair number of Cameo apples are being shipped from Washington to Mexico, said Kevin Precht, marketing program director for the Wenatchee-based Cameo Apple Marketing Association.
“We are working on developing Asia and securing some traction there,” Precht said. “We’re also working on developing Russia. We feel it’s going to be a great apple for the Russian market.”
Washington shippers are trying to open doors for some of its larger fruit in export markets.
“The only limiting factor is they like 100s and smaller, and we’re a little shorter on those,” said John Long, sales manager in the Selah, Wash., office for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos.
Overall, export markets are looking for smaller fruit and primarily red delicious, golden delicious and galas, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.
“But they’re going to have to get used to some different sizes,” he said.
More varietals are going overseas than have before, which is good for the domestic market as well, Queen said.
“We’ve had very steady demand worldwide,” Queen said. “The (U.S.) dollar is weaker, and that plays especially well in Asia. We’re seeing a lot of business going to Asia.”
Queen said he expects the exports markets to keep branching out. Even though gala is the most popular apple in the U.S., Washington continues to produce at least twice as many red delicious apples to satisfy its export business.
“It’s that iconic Washington state apple, and that’s what consumers overseas are looking for,” Queen said. “But we’re starting to see them branch out into other varieties as well.”
L&M Cos. is hoping to move some of its larger Pink Lady apples to the United Kingdom, Israel and the Middle East.
“They take a lot of 100s or smaller, but this year there are lots of 72s to 100s in Pink Lady,” Long said. “We’ll need to spread that marketing out a little bit.”
Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., said the Selah-based company ships almost every variety to Canada. She agreed the weak U.S. dollar is helping export business.
The company’s big export apples are red delicious, Pink Lady, fuji, gala and golden delicious, depending on the market, she said.
While exports should be a big percentage of business this year for L&M, that should dwindle down later in the season, when already stored fruit loses its ability to make a cross-ocean trip, Long said.
“Mexico and Central America have all been very good, taking at least as many apples as they did a year ago,” Long said. “But the Middle East, for example, is a 30-, 40-day trip, and come April, May, June we may not have the fruit that can make that trip.”