Record Wash. state apple harvest expected

Record Wash. state apple harvest expected
WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - The Washington apple industry is expecting a record harvest this year, enough to fill 140 million 40-pound boxes.

That would be an 8 percent increase over the previous record crop in 2012, The Capital Press reported Tuesday.

The forecast is based on estimates from growers, packers and marketers.

"This is pretty much what a lot of folks expected so it's not a surprise and the industry is prepared," said Jon DeVaney, executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, which released the forecast Friday with the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association.

"We expect it to be a good year," DeVaney said.

The increased crop size is due to more new, high-density plantings coming into production, said Bruce Grim, executive director of the Washington State Horticultural Association and manager of apple, pear and cherry marketing associations.

Moving this size of crop "definitely will be a challenge," said Desmond O'Rourke, a retired Washington State University agricultural economist and consultant.

Downward price pressure could hit East Coast apple producers more because they have older varieties and consumers like the Washington varieties, he said.

Washington was able to maintain strong prices with its big crop in 2012 because New York, Michigan, Europe, Canada and Mexico all had lighter crops, O'Rourke said.

New York and Michigan will be a bit light and late this season, Grim said. That will be an advantage for Washington, allowing it to establish early momentum with retailers since its crop is about a week early, Grim said.

It helps, O'Rourke noted, that Gala and Honeycrisp are early Washington varieties and popular with consumers.

As of Aug. 1, there were 8 million boxes of Washington's 2013 apple crop left to sell. That should be enough to dovetail with the new crop, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of Washington Growers Clearing House Association.