The Washington Apple Commission says that the impact on trade with China due to the higher tariffs this season has been relatively minor, with a smaller crop in the U.S.’s top growing region having a knock-on effect on exports.
The organization’s president, Todd Fryhover, told Fresh Fruit Portal the state’s apple volume is down by 14% year-on-year, while exports are currently 28% down.
“This comes as no surprise since the 2018-19 Washington apple crop is the lowest since 2015-16. Our expectation is for this reduced exporting to continue while the focus is on domestic sales,” he said.
The normal volume shipped domestically is nearing 90 million leaving just 27 million for export opportunities.
Specifically for China – which increased tariffs on U.S. apples by 15% in May then a further 25% in July – he said that exports have been impacted, but not too severely.
“We see reduced volume into China this season, but the impact is negligible since our crop volume is reduced. Many countries imports from Washington are further reduced compared to China, so we feel fortunate to have the ability to continue trade with China at the 40% increase in duty,” he said.
“If Washington had a normal crop volume then the discussion would be different.”
By this time last year, Washington had shipped 487,000 bushels to the Chinese market, whereas this year the volumes are 40% lower at 290,000 bushels.
But on a positive note, Fryhover said the industry was “very optimistic” this season for the domestic market, which was seeing improved prices compared to last year.
“In addition, the U.S. consumer is getting a higher percentage of new varieties (Honeycrisp is up to 12,412,000 bushels), which is increasing demand,” he said.
“I would expect to see exports decline [over the coming months] – due to several reasons including trade impact and huge EU apple crop – to around 25-26% of total Washington volume.”