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Washington’s crop is the apple of the nation’s eye

Washington’s apple producers harvested an all-time record setter for the 2012-13 crop year. “We’re going to have a very good crop,” Charles Pomianek, director of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, told The Produce News Nov. 9. “The good news is that all summer long, we thought the estimate was going to be in the 109-million [box range]. Then they get the darned thing picked, and it’s 121.5 million boxes.”

“We have a good crop at the right time,” said Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association. And given the devastation experienced by the New York and Michigan apple industries this season, the news could not have more welcomed.

The growing season was not without incident, however. Several summer hailstorms occurred in July, setting Washington growers on edge. “The hailstorms were phenomenally AppleOverviewWashington’s apple producers harvested the state’s largest crop this year. A total of 121.5 million boxes are expected to be marketed during the 2012-2013 season. (Photo courtesy of Stemilt Growers Inc.)devastating,” Mr. Pomianek stated. “Some blocks were hit hard while others not too far away were undamaged.” Overall, Mr. Pomianek said, “You could have not ordered better weather.”

A total of approximately 102.425 million boxes of apples were in storage as of Nov. 1. A breakdown by apple variety, also expressed in millions of boxes, reveals the following: Red Delicious/32.986; Golden Delicious/11.384; Granny Smith/11.163; Fuji/14.796; Gala/19.915; Braeburn/2.031; Jonagold/0.79; Cameo/0.618; Cripps Pink/2.81; Honeycrisp/2.95; and others/2.982.

Mr. Pomianek said sizing this season is typical. “Quality is high,” he continued. “Packout is higher than last year. Supplies will be there for the consumer.” He anticipates a normal marketing year.

Ninety-nine percent of Washington’s apple crop had been picked as of Nov. 1. Mr. DeVaney said the late-season varieties, which walk the line with the onset of frost, are Cripps Pink and Fuji. Some Red Delicious is also picked late in the Yakima Valley.

“Because of national dynamics, we’ve seen record movement,” Mr. DeVaney commented. “It’s moving faster than usual.” As of Nov. 1, approximately 19.1 million boxes had been moved.

Mr. Pomianek agreed and provided some historic reference points of comparison. As of the same date in 2011, approximately 14.6 million boxes had been moved. During 2010, that number was 14.2 million boxes.

“With Hurricane Sandy, there may be a trucking shortage,” he said regarding transportation. Mr. Pomianek said Rail Logistics “Cold Train” is located at the Port of Quincy, WA, and new refrigerated cars are actively being picked up to move product from the Pacific Northwest. “It’s a very good way of moving fruit,” he stated.

Exports typically account for one-third of product movement. Mr. DeVaney expects this year’s bumper crop will actually strengthen export volume. “Exports through the end of October are up 40 percent compared to the same time in 2011,” he commented, adding that last season’s crop came in late. “That’s an indication that demand will stay strong this year.”

On other fronts, both men commented that this year’s labor situation was tight, and they expressed optimism that congressional leaders will take the necessary steps to ensure an adequate labor force. “Immigration reform for the agricultural community is imperative,” Mr. DeVaney stated.