YAKIMA – Washington apple growers are enjoying high prices for what looks like a record crop of 121.5 million boxes – 11 percent higher than the record of 109.4 million boxes shipped during the 2010-11 marketing season.
The average price for a 40-pound box so far this year is $29.28 per box, compared with $25.53 per box a year ago, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported Thursday.
Washington is the nation’s largest apple producer, growing about half the crop, followed by New York and Michigan, which both suffered frost damage last spring.
“There is certainly demand in the market for a crop this size,” said Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, an industry trade group.
State production has been rising as growers convert to high-density plantings with more trees per acre and earlier production.
Demand for fresh apples is high in both the United States and export markets, said Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director for the Washington State Apple Commission. The state has shipped 406,000 boxes to Mexico, its largest export market, compared with 146,000 boxes at this time last year.
“Domestically, there are a lot of opportunities. Certainly, Washington is filling those gaps on the retail shelves in the East and Midwest earlier than we normally would. It is leading to strong movement,” she said. “That is why we are seeing record movement. It’s all driven by demand.”
Some growers in Washington had to deal with hail damage, and in August the crop was forecast at 120 million boxes. Growers had good weather leading up to the harvest, which allowed the fruit to hang on the tree and gain size.
The crop is manageable, given the high levels of shipments so far this year, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee, which tracks movement and prices.
“The last three weeks we set shipping records. We are up almost 31 percent through the end of the month compared to the last two years,” he said. “The shipping numbers are there and the pricing is coming along well.”
“My expectation is we will see record-setting weeks in November and December. The demand is there,” Kelly said. “It is going out the door due to shortages in the Midwest and East.”