The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) released their 2020 forecast prepared from reports submitted by approximately 50 apple packers and shippers state-wide. The apple harvest usually begins in late July and continues into November; therefore, this forecast is still subject to variable weather that could impact the final total quantity and quality of fruit.
Washington anticipates 134 million forty-pound boxes of fresh apples in the 2020 season, which is very close to 2019’s 133.9 million box crop. With recent weather patterns, it is likely the crop will pick short of this estimate.
Similar to last year, Gala will take the lead in quantity at 23%, followed by Red Delicious at 17%, Fuji at 14% and Granny Smith and Honeycrisp at 13% of total production. Cosmic Crisp variety is forecasted to come in at around 1.4% of the total crop, and Cripps Pink at 5%.
Not all organic production is packed and marketed as organic. Although, organic apple production is forecasted to be 16% of the total, or 21 million boxes. This is an increase from last year’s 15 million boxes of the organic apple crop.
Crop maturity is approximately 7 days earlier than last year. That being said, with many days of 95°F+ temperatures, color has been slow to come on. Many growers are going through their 1st picks of their highest color fruit, chasing color through early harvest. And, many growers are ‘picking light,’ which means they are not getting the yields out of the fields that they had expected based on earlier estimates. There also seems to be a consensus among most growers that the crop will be less than the original estimate.
Washington has focused attention on plantings of the Cosmic Crisp® variety, producing 1.9 – 2 million boxes this year, in comparison to the 345,000 boxes in 2019. Washington projects to produce 5.6 million boxes in 2021, 10.4 million in 2022, and moving towards 17 million in 2024. These apples are planted on “new ground” as existing root stock does not support grafting. Most new acreage are dwarf trees, planted very close together, totalling about 1,400 trees per acre. These varietal trees are generally trellised, to allow for easy picking, as the industry knows that labor is going to continue to be a challenge. The goal is to set themselves up for automation. You can see an example of this tactic in our blog – From the CEO’s Desk: Labor Shortages and the Future of Automation.
New Club Varieties
The planting and promotions of new varieties that have occurred over the past 10 years in Washington, New York, Michigan, and around the apple producing world have been in efforts to differentiate and depart from a commodity trap, where leverage is driven by price and price alone. The idea behind having new varieties is to drive consumption both in exports and domestic markets.
There are many new varieties coming from breeders both commercially and from various state programs. Cosmic Crisp® came from Washington State University. Once considered the gold standard, Honey Crisp® was developed at the University of Minnesota. Jazz™ and Envy from T&G / ENZA was developed from Plant & Food Research in NZ. There are well over 50 new PVR’s (plant varietal rights) whose ‘clubs’ are structured in multiple ways. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to stand out with an individual new variety, as a result of the sheer quantity of new varieties coming to market.
This will continue to be of great importance, as noted in our blog – From the CEO’s Desk: Labor Shortages and the Future of Automation. Innovation and automation are on the rise. The cost of production for apples continues to increase and sales prices have not increased to match these increased costs. Therefore, the return on a box of apples for a grower is marginally lower every year. This economic reality will drive change surrounding how growers choose to automate and grow crops strategically in the future.
This season has brought on new partnerships in Washington with consolidations of marketing and sales desks. To service the large retailers (think Walmart, Costco, and Kroger, for example) you must have volume and the capacity to support the supply chain logistics.
Sage Fruit Company welcomes Congdon Orchards
Sage Fruit Company as a grower/packer/shipper welcomed Congdon Orchards to it’s team in a merger move that enhances the marketing, sales and distribution of it’s apples, pears and cherries. Sage Fruit was able to add a considerable volume of Washington state apples, pears, and cherries to it’s portfolio with this merge according to an article by And Now You Know.
CMI Orchards partners with Yakima Fruit and Cold Storage Co.
CMI Orchards, Wenatchee, formed a partnership this spring with Yakima Fruit and Cold Storage Co. This strategic partnership with Yakima Fruit, as well as with Pine Canyon Growers, in addition to significant internal growth, has added over 4 million boxes to CMI’s lineup, according to an article by And Now You Know.
As a result of recent this recent growth, CMI reports the following increases in its core, organic, and branded offerings:
In 2020, CMI will bring a Washington-grown EverCrisp to market and will launch its first harvest of organic EverCrisp nationwide.
Superfresh Growers® harvests more varieties
Superfresh Growers® farms is now harvesting four categories of fruit simultaneously: cherries, blueberries, apples, and pears, while also preparing for kiwi berries in September, according to an article by And Now You Know.
Washington Fruit & Produce Co. merges with Yakima Fresh
Washington Fruit & Produce Co. and Yakima Fresh have merged to sell apples, cherries and pears. Washington Fruit Sales will be the exclusive marketer for Roche Fruit, Washington Fruit and Mount Adams Fruit. Roche Fruit will continue to own and operate its farming and packing operations, according to an article in The Packer.
So, as we look forward to another large crop from Washington, there will certainly be plenty of varieties to choose from to excite and delight YOUR customer.
Every day is different at Vanguard; with new growers joining our community, new crops and fresh varieties being introduced, and new markets opening. Keep up to date with what’s happening in our expanding world.