By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
When it comes to the export of U.S. fruits, apples certainly enjoy the largest slice of the pie. That’s because U.S. apples are the most popular fruit.
This year’s crop is estimated to be around 221.5 million bushels, down from last year’s actual harvest of 236 million bushels and smaller than the five-year average of 229 million bushels. Nevertheless, the U.S. Apple Association (USApple) expects 2010 to be a good year. That’s because processing prices have been trending downward while export markets are growing.
Apples are the country’s No. 1 fruit export, says Mark Seetin, USApple director, regulatory and industry affairs. In fact despite the global economic recession, U.S. apple exports reached a record of 41 million bushels in 2009 with about two-thirds going to the fresh market and the rest to the processed market.
The U.S. apple production is valued at approximately $2.2 billion dollars annually, reports Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University. Apples are the third most valuable fruit crop in the United States, following grapes and oranges, she says.
Every state in the continental United States grows apples, and 32 states raise apples commercially. Washington State, however, is top on the list. Thanks to good growing conditions, Washington Sates produces 59 percent of apples in the United States. New York accounts for around 12 percent, and Michigan, 6 percent. Other major apple states include Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
US Apple’s 2010 production estimate for states out west is 146.1 million bushels.
The Washington Apple Commission reports that Washington State’s 2010/2010 apple crop is shaping up to be good with an estimated 103,375 million boxes. Helping Washington apple sales this year could be a smaller apple crop in China due to spring frosts.
Harvest of Washington apples begins in mid-August and generally ends in early November. Each year, Washington harvests over 100 million boxes of apples, each weighing about 40 pounds.
“Every year Washington exports about one-third of its entire production to more than 60 countries around the world,” comments Rebecca Baerveldt, Export Marketing manager, Washington Apple Commission.
In the 2009-2010 crop year, the state exported over 32.3 million 42-lb bushel cartons.
“Most are sent by ocean freight (reefer), although shipments to Mexico and Canada—our No. 1 and No. 2 markets respectively, are shipped via truck,” Baerveldt adds.
Red Delicious is Washington’s primary export variety representing about 48 percent of its total volume. The Washington Apple Commission has found, however, that changing consumer preferences overseas have pushed Gala to over 5.9 million cartons exported with Golden Delicious at 3.9, Granny Smith at 2.6 and Fuji directly behind at 2.4 million each for 2009-2010.
Washington Apple Commission promotional programs are implemented by 13 contractors in key export markets, with activities occurring in over 30 different countries.
The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma handle the bulk of Washington apple exports. In fact, Washington apples, other fresh fruit and vegetables, wheat, seafood, processed foods, meat, dairy products, wine and hops are the leading food and agriculture products being exported from Washington, thereby making it the third largest exporter for such products in the United States.
One of the reasons, points out Rod Koon, spokesman for the Port of Tacoma, is because Washington ports are the closest mainland U.S. ports to Asia.
“Ships can arrive up to two days sooner in key ports such as Tokyo and Busan,” he says. Consequently, Japan, China, Canada, Taiwan and South Korea are the top five markets for Washington agricultural exports.
Another advantage is the ports’ excellent road and rail links.
“Most of the Washington apples are truck in containers and loaded directly onto vessels,” Koon says. “All container lines that call at the Port of Tacom