Aug 9, 2023
Washington’s organic, conventional apple crop bounces back
After a season of marked by a smaller crop due to a cold spring in 2022, the Washington fresh apple crop is expected to increase almost 30% in 2023-24.
The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) described growing conditions as “near perfect,” bringing a forecast of just more than 134 million 40-pound boxes of apples for the fresh market. The association released its annual estimate Aug. 9.
The organic apple market continues to grow as well, with the tree fruit association’s forecast at 21 million boxes, which is 15.7% of the total harvest. According to the association, Washington leads the nation in organic apple production, although not all organic production is packed and marketed as organic.
“Our growers have a long tradition of meeting consumer demand, and they are proving it again by producing more 93% of the country’s organic apple output,” Jon DeVaney, WSTFA president said in a news release.
The 2022 harvest was much smaller than normal due to a very cold spring, with snow that inhibited pollination during bloom. This year, moderate weather has helped growers deliver a healthy crop much closer (5% above) the previous six-year average production. This return to historic norms is also seen in growers’ reports of favorable size distribution and expected high quality across all varietals, according to the release.
WSTFA’s forecast for the 2023 Washington state fresh apple crop also illustrates the continued trend of varietal diversification, including Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Envy and Cosmic Crisp, with those four varieties representing more than a quarter of forecast production.
“There is a lot of excitement as we are seeing a more normal harvest and excellent fruit quality this year,” DeVaney said in the release. “A moderate spring and a warm early summer created near-perfect growing conditions, so our domestic and foreign customers are going to see great size, color, and overall good quality in our apples. The harvest is just getting underway now, and our growers look forward to bringing in a great harvest that will benefit consumers around the state, country, and world.”
The WSTFA forecast indicates a robust production in five popular varietals. Gala represents the largest part of the harvest at 19.8%, Red Delicious is projected at 13%, followed by Honeycrisp at 14.6%, Granny Smith at 13.8%, and Fuji at 11.7% of total production. Cosmic Crisp, a proprietary varietal grown only in Washington, continues to grow in its share of the total crop, with 5.9% of the harvest.
“It’s great for the state and for consumers around that world that our growers have rebounded from a down year with a strong, healthy crop in 2023,” Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said in the release. “More importantly, thanks to moderate weather the quality of apples is exceptionally high. Apples are Washington state’s calling card to every corner of the globe. This year, we are literally putting our best crop forward and that’s good for our state economy, our workforce, and our growers.”
This forecast is based on a survey of WSTFA members and represents the best estimate of the total volume of apples that will eventually be packed and sold on the fresh market. The survey excludes product sent to processors. Apple harvest typically begins in August and continues into November. As a result, th3 forecast is still subject to several months of variable weather which can affect the final harvest total.