Washington apple crop impacted by cold spring

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Washington apple crop impacted by cold spring

A cold spring has taken its toll on the apple crops in the U.S.'s biggest production state, with Washington fresh supplies expected to be 11 percent lower year-on-year this season.

The full crop is projected to be 108.7 million standard forty-pound boxes of fresh apples, down from last season's 122.3 million boxes, according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA).

However, emerging varieties and organic production continue to grow in importance as a share of the overall crop, reflecting increased consumer preference.

“We are pleased with the size of the harvest, particularly in the face of a long, cold spring,” said Jon DeVaney, WSTFA President. 

“Growing seasons are never the same, and currently many WSTFA members are still evaluating the impact of prolonged cold weather and ongoing crop development.

"Weather is always a factor, and some varieties still have several months of growth ahead. However, our members are to be congratulated for once again managing this uncertainty to deliver a strong harvest for the benefit of our state, country, and ultimately the world.”

The estimate shows that five popular apple varieties make up the majority of the harvest. Gala leads production at 20%, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp are each projected at 14%, followed by Granny Smith at 13.4%, and Fuji at 12.7% of total production. 

Cosmic Crisp, a proprietary varietal grown only in Washington state continues to grow in its share of the total crop. This year, Cosmic Crisp is 4.6% of the harvest, up from 3.2% last year.

“The strong harvest estimate for these varieties, which have been popular with domestic and international consumers, is good news. Apples are synonymous with Washington state, and our members are set to deliver another year of high-quality and delicious fruit,” added DeVaney.

Washington apples are sold in over 40 countries and are a centerpiece in domestic grocery produce departments. They are also vital to the state’s economy and are its leading agricultural commodity. Apples represented 20% of the state’s farm-gate agricultural value in 2020. On average, 30% of the harvest is exported.

Washington also leads the nation in the production of organic apples with over 90% of the country’s output. The organic forecast for 2022, is 14.4 million boxes, or 13% of the total harvest. It should be noted that not all organic production is packed and marketed as organic.

“Apples are a symbol of Washington,” said Derek Sandison, Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. “Wherever I go in the world, the minute I say I’m representing Washington, people tell me how much they love our apples.

"The apple harvest is also vitally important to our state’s economy, representing approximately $7.5 billion in annual economic impact. Although they have faced many challenges this year, I wish the workforce and the state’s growers success as they begin another great harvest.”

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