Washington apple grower-shippers expect to market a record fresh apple crop of 108.8 million cartons in 2010-11, about 5 million cartons more than last season and barely above the previous high water mark of 108.3 million cartons shipped in 2008-09.

The estimate, compiled by members of the Yakima Valley Grower Shippers Association and the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, was released Aug. 11.

“It is pretty similar to the 2008 crop,” said Charlie Pomianek, manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, Wenatchee, Wash.

While projected to be a record fresh market crop, the crop size is reasonable for marketers to handle, shippers said.
“It is not so much we will have to give it away,” said Scott Hanses, vice president of C.M. Holtzinger Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash.

August 23 pricing for Washington extra fancy galas size 72s was $32 per carton, with 125s at $20-25 per carton. Meanwhile, 2009 red delicious sold out of controlled-atmosphere storage were priced at $18-20 per carton for 72s, off from $22-24 per carton the same time a year ago.

Marketers said that new crop fruit size was off a bit and timing was a bit later than 2009. Initial thoughts that the 2010 crop could hit a whopping 120 million cartons faded with the reality of smaller sizes and lower expected packout.

“The size of fruit is one to two sizes smaller, but last year we had a tremendous amount of jumbo-sized fruit,” said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.

If galas peaked on 80s and 88s last year, this year they may tend toward 100s and 113s, shippers said.

Red delicious fruit may peak on 100s, so larger-sized fruit in tray packs will sell at a premium f.o.b.
Harvest timing was a touch later than a year ago, with first galas expected by Aug. 22 to Aug. 25, compared to about Aug. 15 last year.

First harvest of golden delicious was expected by Sept. 11, with granny smith, fuji, Honeycrisp and red delicious harvest beginning by mid-September, said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima.

Braeburn harvest is anticipated by Oct. 5 and Pink Lady by Nov. 11, Queen said.

Retailers were visiting shippers to determine promotion opportunities and peak size to promote and were learningsize 88 fruit may be in abundance compared to the normal range of 72s to 80s.

Hanses said growing districts that experienced good pollination weather have the most promise for larger sizes.
“There are pockets where we have larger fruit,” Queen said. “The mix is going to be there.”

Even so, smaller fruit sizes will spur renewed opportunity for bagged promotions, said Bob Mast, vice president of marketing for Columbia Marketing International Corp., Wenatchee.

“The 5-pound bag has faded away but we will be coming out and doing some 5-pound bag promotions this season,” he said.

A cold, wet spring may result in some flecking on fujis and russeting on golden delicious, which is expected to reduce packout this year.

“We will add some labor for sorting this year,” Mast said. “It may take a little work to get premium fruit into the box.”

Pomianek said the industry’s annual all-variety forecast has averaged within 5.5% of actual production over the past three years, with estimates as close as 2% and off as much as 10% from the final packout.

In 2009, the industry had originally expected the crop to total 107 million cartons, but freezing weather in October reduced fresh apple supplies.

By variety, the industry forecast predicts 35.4 million cartons of red delicious, compared to 34 million in the big crop year of 2008.

Through Aug. 8 this year, Washington apple shippers had moved about 30.2 million cartons of red delicious apples, with several more weeks of shipments before the 2009 crop was finished.

Meanwhile, gala output this year is anticipated at 20.6 million cartons, compared with 23 million cartons in 2008, and 19.3 million cartons shipped through Aug. 8 this year.

Some varieties showed projected declines compared to the 2008 crop year.

The 2010 estimate for golden delicious is 11.2 million cartons, down from the 2008 level of 12.7 million cartons. Granny smith output is projected at 14.3 million cartons, down slightly from the 2008 output of 14.6 million cartons. The fuji projection is 14.6 million cartons, down slightly from 14.9 million cartons in the 2008-09 marketing year.