“We know that we’re in really good shape this year,” Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, based in Victor’s hamlet of Fishers, NY, told The Produce News in early December. “The problem is coming up with a credible crop number. Currently U.S. apple storage figures show that New York has about 12 million bushels in storage for both processing and fresh. We feel that this number is grossly underestimated.We easily met our earlier estimate of 32 million bushels, and we even feel certain that we have exceeded that number.”
Allen explained that the problem with the numbers is that some people don’t report what they have in storage. This happens for a couple of reasons, but it’s primarily because some are afraid that what can appear as an over-abundance of fruit can drive prices down.
“If I drove around the state and counted everything that is really in storage, I would guarantee you that they are full of apples,” said Allen. “Although we moved a tremendous amount of apples that came off the trees and went back out in one week, I sincerely doubt that this can account for the 20 million bushel difference that we’re now seeing on paper.”
He acknowledges that there are a lot of numbers that cannot be counted, such as what is sold at green and farm markets, pick-your-own and other similar sales outlets. Still, he believes that New York likely has the highest inventory of stored apples of all times this year.
“Besides excellent quality and volumes, our apples are also larger than normal this year, and it therefore takes less to fill a box,” Allen explained. “But there were also more apples on the trees.
“We recently had a board meeting, and every district is reporting that their harvest was from ‘very large’ to ‘the largest we’ve ever had,’” he continued. “Growers who know their accurate numbers are better prepared to go to market with a solid plan, and this plays strongly in in the prices they get.”
Allen said that growers not wanting buyers to know that they have an abundance of fruit, and so hold back on accurate numbers, comes back to bite them. An example of how this can happen is that this year the U.S. apple crop report states that Michigan has sold more apples to date, and has more in storage this year. This would imply that they are the second-highest producing state behind Washington.
“But if we had accurate numbers out there, and we picked closed to 35 million bushels, we would most likely be in second place with Michigan close behind us,” he said.
He also explained why New York’s apple crop is so large in volume, fruit size and high quality this year, especially following last year’s devastated crop.
“Nature works in strange and wondrous ways,” said Allen. “Just because the freeze last year killed the blossoms, it doesn’t mean it harmed the trees. In fact, the energy that the trees would have expelled growing apples was turned inside of the trees. That results in an even stronger and larger crop this year because the trees matured internally.”
Acknowledging the highly creative and very popular media photos that are coming out of the NYAA this season, such as the one of Santa reaching for an apple rather than cookies (The Produce News, Dec. 2, Page 27), Allen gave a shout-out to the association’s creative team at Mason SelkowitzMarketing in Penfield, NY.
“We’re working with Mike Cassidy at the company,” said Allen. “We started the trade campaign last March in an effort to change the negative impression we felt the trade had in believing that New York did not have apples last year. He and his group have done an outstanding job for us. Our promotional materials are just as creative, and they will run throughout the winter and spring months, with new programs being launched regularly.”
The NYAA works directly with retailers to build programs that are uniquely suited to each. Some of the many choices are online coupons, point of sale coupons, rebates and more. One retailer does a very large apple business through its website offering consumers to click for coupons. Still others use loyalty cards for apple savings.
Allen was still enthusiastic about the NYAA’s participation in the ING New York City Marathon that was held on Nov. 3. The association has sponsored the event for over a decade.
“We handed out over 90,000 McIntosh apples — the official marathon variety — at the race,” he said. “It was the biggest ever marathon — a true success. And I’m proud to say that my daughter, Tenley S. Allen, ran in the race for the second time.”