(Aug. 24) CHICAGO — North American apple growers are drinking from the same cider jug this year.

Like their U.S. counterparts, apple producers in Canada and Mexico expect reduced output, compared with 2005.

Speaking to the U.S. Apple Association’s Outlook 2006 conference on Aug. 18, Don Werden, sales coordinator for the Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association, Simcoe, Ontario, said the total Canadian apple crop has been forecast at 24.9 million bushels, 13% less than 2005’s and 9% below the five-year average.

The biggest influence on the crop was the downturn in expected production in British Columbia, Werden noted. Growers there have a crop that is predicted to be 16.9% lower than last season. Hail damage caused much of the expected decline in fresh volume, and harvest timing was running about five to seven days behind normal.

Ambrosia volumes in British Columbia are increasing by 30.9% this year because of new bearing acreage, and gala output is also stronger by 3.3%, he said. However, golden delicious tonnage is estimated to be off 37%, mcintosh is projected to be down by 36% and red delicious output is expected to fall 18%.

Harvest of some of the earlier varieties is expected to begin the first half of September, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, Nova Scotia volume is projected to be down 10%, and harvest there is expected to be seven to 10 days early.

Quebec’s output is projected to be down 5%, with higher-than-normal incidence of scab and hail in some growing areas.

Ontario’s production accounts for about one-third of Canadian apple output, and this year the province is expected to harvest 8.6 million bushels, down slightly from a year ago. Gala production is expected to be up 10%, and overall fruit size is good.

MEXICO

Likewise, Mexican apple producers expect to harvest a smaller crop this season, said Kelly Jones, partner in Paqime SPR de RI, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico.

He said Mexico’s total apple production during 2006 is predicted at 13.3 million cartons, down 4% from the 13.9 million carton crop of 2005.

The short crop should open the door for plenty of U.S. imports later in the season, he said.

In 2005, U.S. apples had a Mexican import market share of 89%, and Chile had a share of 7%. For 2006, Jones said, Chilean market share grew to 12%, while the U.S. market share dipped to about 84%.

However, the discovery of Medfly in some Chilean growing regions could cause some future disruption in shipments to Mexico, he said.

Mexican apple prices are likely to be lowest from September to December, he said, as cash strapped growers in Mexico are expected to sell off much of their inventories.

However, he said some growers in Mexico feel the market could be headed higher in the long term.

“Market speculation is causing packers and distributors to increase their apple purchases and long-term storage, which has translated to higher prices for the 2006 crop,” he said.

DUMPING INVESTIGATION

Meanwhile, Jones said there is no final decision in the long-running dumping investigation on U.S. red and golden delicious apples.

In September of last year, the Mexican government applied a 43.5% provisional duty for U.S. reds and goldens and ordered further review of dumping evidence.

Exceptions to the provisional tariff were made for Allan Bros., Naches, Wash., at 10.53%; Zirkle Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., at 2.01%; and Price Cold Storage and Packing Co. Inc., Yakima, Wash.

Jones said Mexico’s final decision on the apple dumping case had been expected by July but now is projected for September.

The overall economic climate is good in Mexico, Jones said.

Conservative Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party is expected to be confirmed as president in September after the tight election in July.

Mexico’s stock market has risen more than 40% in the past 12 months, and Jones said the country’s high-valued oil exports, low interest rates and rising exports have been positive.