Pre-season estimates carried out by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association in August pegged production levels for the 2017-18 season at 131.9 million cartons of fresh apples.
However, this number has since risen to 142.3 million cartons, which would constitute a record by a small margin.
Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover said the increase over initial estimates was in part due to the fruit sizing up thanks to favorable weather conditions in the fall as well as new plantings coming online.
He explained that the harvests had been two to three weeks later than normal, but said: “As far as movement goes it is very consistent with where we need to be.”
“The domestic numbers are good, and the export numbers are improving all the time. So we’re in great shape as far as our movement goes. Quality seems to be doing very well as well,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
He said his organization doesn’t monitor prices, but noted that generally they seemed to be at least as good as last year.
“The vast majority are higher, and of course it depends on the fruit, but generally speaking on average we are at least at or above last season’s prices,” he said.
Fryhover also highlighted the increasing volumes of new varieties as one reason why the higher production than originally forecast has not been much of a challenge for the industry.
“There are better choices for the consumers and they’re able to pay a little bit more money for product that they really want,” he said.
As for exports, he said there’s currently a push into Latin American markets in the run-up to Christmas, with a stronger push into China expected early next year as the Chinese New Year celebrations approach.
Exports to China are currently 50% down year-on-year, which Fryhover said was to be expected given the later season this year and the large Chinese apple crop.
“In Southeast Asia most markets are down slightly but that’s just due to the nature of being later with our harvest,” he said, also noting exports to India are up 20%, which he described as “fantastic”.
Fresh apple production in Washington State during previous seasons was registered at 134.1 million cartons (2016-17), 115.3 million (2015-16), 141.8 million (2014-15), 115.2 million (2013-14) and 128.3 million (2012-13).