The 2010-2011 apple season is looking more and more like a case of the haves and have-nots, and it’s producing some interesting market dynamics.

Apple seasons take shape, bring surprises

Andy Nelson
Markets Editor

On the have side are Washington, Chile and New Zealand. All are reporting big crops.

The have-nots include New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, all of which expect to wind down considerably earlier because of lower volumes. European volumes also are expected to be down this year.

On the international side, a possible-record Washington crop will likely mean that higher percentages of New Zealand and Chilean galas and other varieties will wind up in other markets.

“A lot of New Zealand exporters are looking to Asia,” David Nelley, apple and pear category director for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, told me.

“North America will find that most galas and fujis will be going to Asia instead.”

“It will be a little slow on the front side (of the import deal) with galas,” agreed Randy Steensma, president and export marketing director for Nuchief Sales Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

“Last year we started receiving in mid-March. It won’t happen this year. We’ll have a very good supply (of Washington galas) through mid-May or the first of June.”

After galas, Southern Hemisphere granny smiths could find a window, particularly if there are condition problems on larger Washington-grown granny smiths, Steensma said.

As for New Zealand braeburns, the Germans, not the Americans, are likely to gobble them up, Nelley said. A depressed U.S. market last season, in addition to the big Washington crop this year, makes Europe look like a better option for the variety, he said.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, despite the shortages in Michigan, the industry’s retail partners have been very loyal, said Barry Winkel, general manager of Benton Harbor-based Greg Orchards & Produce Inc.

They haven’t deserted their local growers, he said, even if it’s meant promoting apples at higher prices — or not promoting at all.

That might be a sign of the times, based on another conversation I had recently with Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.

In the old days, one region was more likely to pounce if another one was short, Allen said.

“Collaboration” is the word that better characterizes the current way of doing business, he said. Shippers from different regions are more likely to help each other than take advantage of each other.

And a fair amount of helping is guaranteed this season.

With Washington spreading its net wider to make up for shortages east of the Mississippi and in Europe, prices will likely creep up in coming months, Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash., told me.

Even a Pennsylvania shipper, Gardners-based Rice Fruit Co., is picking up the slack in North Carolina and Tennessee, markets it shares with Michigan.

(Pennsylvania may be short, but Michigan is really short.)

Oppenheimer’s Nelley told me that more imported apples than usual arriving at East Coast ports could stay in the East to fill in the gaps there.


What's your take on how 2011's apple season is shaping up? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.