apple tree

Apples are ready to pick in an orchard on Pogue Flat.

WENATCHEE – Washington state, the nation’s leading producer of apples, is expecting a smaller crop yield this year, according to the Washington Apple Commission.

Washington produces 65 percent of the fresh apples grown in the U.S., and as growers are reaching the midway point of harvest, they are observing an approximately 10 percent lighter crop load on the trees than the original estimate released in August, said the apple commission.

The first forecast released by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association on Aug. 1 predicted a crop of 134 million 40-pound boxes, based on grower estimates.

“Traditionally, the December storage report will be the best indication of the final size of the marketable crop as weather variability can still affect the remaining fruit to be harvested,” said Tim Kovis, spokesman for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

The association is seeing a downward trend from the August forecast, which for early varieties – Gala, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious – around 4 percent, he said.

Apple harvest begins in August and ends in early November. Growers and orchard crews are about 70 percent through picking, said the apple commission.

At the Oct. 8 Washington Apple Commission board’s virtual meeting, industry members discussed progress of the crop and contributing factors to the lower volume: Alternate bearing season lightening the number of apples per tree, a recent windstorm and more selective sort-picking happening in the orchard as growers work to improve packouts in the warehouse.

“It is the growing consensus that the 2020 apple crop will be lower than earlier published estimates,” said James Foreman, chairman of the apple commission board. “This can be attributed to both a reduction in the quantity of bulk bins harvested, as well as lower conversion yields to packed boxes.”

Apple sizes appear to be smaller this year compared to last season, but it is region-dependent, said the commission. Washington’s growing regions are spread the Columbia River.

The apple category is experiencing an uptick in demand because of COVID-19 bringing health and nutrition to the forefront in the minds of consumers and, as a result, an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, said the commission.

The state’s 1,260 apple growers produce eight core varieties: Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Golden Delicious and Cosmic Crisp.

More than 50 other “club” or proprietary varieties also are grown. In addition to being the top producer of apples in the country, Washington represents 85 percent of all U.S. organic apple production. Apples are the No. 1-produced commodity in Washington and have a $3 billion state economic impact.

The Washington Apple Commission is a non-profit, promotional organization dedicated to marketing and advertising fresh Washington apples internationally.

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