Washington apple crop forecast slightly lower amid tougher export scenario

More News Most Read Today's Headline
Washington apple crop forecast slightly lower amid tougher export scenario

The apple crop in the U.S. state of Washington has been forecast down 2% year-on-year at 131 million boxes, with larger sizing expected than the previous season.

The estimate was released on Tuesday by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA), which noted that last year the crop had come in at 134 million standard forty-pound boxes.

The launch of the forecast comes as exporters face higher tariffs in three of their biggest export markets.

“The 2018 Washington state apple crop looks to be slightly smaller than last year’s crop but will still deliver an abundant supply of delicious apples for consumers to enjoy this year,” said WSTFA president Jon DeVaney.

“Harvest has started for some early varieties, and growers anticipate a crop of excellent quality fruit. Members also report improved sizing over 2017.”

The Gala crop is expected to make up 24% of production, followed by Red Delicious at 21.5%, Fuji at 13.5% and Granny Smith at 13%. Meanwhile, Honeycrisp is forecast to come in at 10.8%, and Cripps Pink 4.5%.

Organic production will make up around 14% of volumes, but not all will necessarily be marketed as organic fruit.

Export challenges

While good quality and large sizing may bode well for the season in general, the export outlook this year is more complicated than usual. 

U.S. apple exporters are subject to a 50% tariff in China - up from 10% a few months ago - while Mexico has implemented a 20% duty. In addition, India is threatening to hit U.S. apple imports with a 75% tariff, up from 50%, from Sept. 18.

Washington Apple Commission communications outreach coordinator Toni Lynn Adams told Fresh Fruit Portal that around 30% of the state's apples are exported, and the three markets in question account for 50% of export volume.

"30% of total Washington apple exports are directed to Mexico, approximately grossing US$215 million in sales," she said.

"Mexico imports all varieties and all sizes, making it an important market to Washington apples as producers grow a diverse range of varieties within the state."

India has become the state's number-two market, after Mexico, and Tarun Arora of India-based IG International said he expected a 25% tariff hike would dramatically reduce U.S. apple imports.

Exports to China are about 2.3% of total U.S apple exports, and Mark Powers of the Northwest Horticultural Council recent said he considered that with the increased tariff, many exporters were treating the market as closed.

"Barriers to trade will be an obstacle in the coming year but we have a lot to look forward to with sizing improving and an ample supply of high quality Washington fruit," Adams said.

"As a marketing agency on behalf of Washington growers, the Washington Apple Commission will continue to conduct promotional support in these valued markets and build on the relationships within each trade market. 

"As producers look forward to the 2018 crop they will be reviewing their strategy. It will be up to individual sales groups to determine impact and readjust as needed. This is a developing situation and we are following closely to best prepare for the upcoming year."

Photo: Shutterstock

Subscribe to our newsletter