Washington State produces about 60 percent of the apples grown in the United States. Last month, this year’s crop was predicted to be a near-record 110 million boxes. Yet the apple crop continues to grow! The new estimated total is a record-breaking 129.7 million 40-pound boxes. By adding the 18 percent processor volume, this puts the total crop at roughly 150 million boxes. And there is a large percentage of apples that is not even counted, as they went straight from the orchard to processors.Though the state is experiencing its largest apple crop in history, prices continue to stay strong due to the short crops in the Midwest, East Coast, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Unfortunate situations in these areas give the Washington’s industry a healthy outlook on price and movement throughout the year.
A recent economic study requested by the Washington Apple Commission—The Washington Apple Industry: Contributions to the State Economy and the Important Role of Exports — concluded the apple industry contributed more than $7 billion to the state’s economy during the 2010-2011 marketing season. Nearly 60,000 people were employed in production and related industries, generating wages of about $1.95 billion. During the past four years when the US economy has struggled, Washington’s apple industry has been strong.
Statewide there are more than 165,000 acres of apple orchards. The top five varieties, Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious, account for over 82 percent of this acreage. However, Honeycrisp has been planted on 10,000 acres and with sales at $60 per box, the industry will continue to plant more acres to this variety. On Department of Natural Resources-managed state trust lands, there are about 45 leases with apples growing on more than 6,000 acres. Varieties grown on state land include the top five and others, along with some “club” varieties such as Jazz and Envy—grown and marketed by arrangement.
This past fiscal year July 2011 through June 2012, the orchard and vineyard program on state DNR-managed properties generated nearly $6 million dollars.
At the tree fruit industry annual convention in early December in Yakima, industry leaders presented some of the major challenges. These challenges include having an adequate labor supply, the adoption of mechanization, and being able to more broadly market an increasingly large crop.
Mark Grassel, Orchard & Vineyard Manager,