Frutas y HortalizasDic. 3, 2020
EE.UU: caída del 12% señala el Pronóstico de cosecha para manzanas para el Estado de Washington (en inglés)
Washington’s 2020 apple crop is now estimated at 118.2 million fresh packed 40-pound boxes. That’s down almost 12% from the Aug. 1 forecast of 134.2 million boxes.
Some varieties picked shorter than expected, as two weeks of solid wildfire smoke in early September slowed apple maturity and fruit was smaller. Freezing temperatures in late October took a toll and COVID-19 restrictions reduced labor.
All of those factors contributed to a smaller crop with smaller fruit size, perhaps caused by smoke, being the leading one, said Rob Valicoff, past president of Valicoff Fruit Co. in Wapato.
“There’s also been a lot of tree removal. We took out 260 acres of Gala and never replanted,” he said. “Big retailers don’t want to handle Red and Golden Delicious anymore so more maybe coming out.”
Valicoff is a smaller company. Many larger growers have removed and replanted many more acres.
The supply of labor probably would have been OK without COVID-19, and it could be tighter next year as growers will need more workers to avoid a new requirement to pay extra for overtime, Valicoff said.
The 118.2 million-box Nov. 1 estimate, released Nov. 6 by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, is down 11.9% from the 133.9 million-box 2019 crop. It’s also down 17.6% from the record 143.6 million-box crop of 2014.
“Prices are likely to bounce back dramatically from last year,” said Desmond O’Rourke, a retired Washington State University agricultural economist and world apple analyst.
The average FOB (freight-on-board leaving warehouse) prices could be $28.50 per box for all sizes and grades of main varieties, excluding Honeycrisp, versus a little under $20 for the past season, he said.
Prices are increasing earlier than usual this season with Honeycrisp at about $41 per box, Fuji at $24 and Red Delicious at about $17 for the week ending Nov. 1, O’Rourke said. The average of all varieties is above $29, increasing 2% in just two weeks and should be stronger in December, he said.
“The smaller packed crop will put further stress on packers that were already under stress. The impact will vary by individual firms depending on which of their varieties lost most volume. So while overall industry revenues should increase, some firms may not be so lucky,” O’Rourke said.
Packing and shipping warehouses have certain fixed costs so less fruit means higher costs to growers or companies covering it out of their capital, he said.
There have been several consolidations, acquisitions and infusions of outside capital in Washington tree fruit companies in the last couple of years, and more are expected.
The smaller crop bodes well for the new Cosmic Crisp variety, estimated at 1.7 million boxes, up from 346,000 in its debut last season. It averaged $75 per box last season, he said.
Exports are down 30% and will remain difficult throughout the season because of high prices and continued trade issues, O’Rourke said.
The smaller crop is slowing all shipments, domestic and export, down 9% for the week ending Nov. 1 and down 7% since Sept. 1, he said.
Of the 118.2 million-box estimate, 17.9 million were sold between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1, leaving an estimated 100.2 million in storage.
Capitalpress/December 1, 2020