The 2012 apple crop forecast, as determined at the U.S. Apple Association Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago on Aug. 16-17, is certainly a mixed bag. East of the Mississippi, a very early bloom period followed by frost, then hail and drought conditions, will contribute to a much lower crop than usual. Out West, however, despite July hailstorms, Washington state is poised to have its largest crop in several years.
Here are a few highlights from this year’s crop forecast, which includes USDA and USApple estimates for the U.S., as well as projections for other major international apple producers.
• USDA’s crop estimate, which was released on Aug. 10, calls for 192 million bushels nationally, which would be down 14% from both 2011 and from the five-year average. While the Washington apple crop is forecast to increase 5%, the East and Midwest are poised for crop losses of 31% and 79% respectively.
• The major challenges in the East, according to USApple’s director of regulatory affairs Mark Seetin, will be finding adequate supplies for processing apples.
• Nationally, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious account for 36% of total acreage, but that number continues to shrink each year.
• On a state-by-state basis, USApple’s crop estimates are mostly in line with USDA projections, although there are a few variances. While USDA called for a 5% crop increase in Washington (up to 135.7 million bushels), USApple members felt that number could reach 145,000, which would be a 14% increase. The two factors that could affect this number are actual hail damage from the July storms, and whether there will be an adequate labor supply to pick such an enormous crop.
• In Michigan, USDA is calling for an 89% drop in production, to 2.5 million bushels, while USApple members were slightly more optimistic, projecting 3.5 million bushels, an 85% decline. The reason? Growers will likely pick every apple they possibly can.
• Canada has experienced many of the same problems as the U.S. As a result, the Canadian apple crop is forecast to be down 32.6% to 14.1 million bushels, which would be the smallest crop in more than 20 years.
• South of the border, Mexico’s apple crop is projected to drop from 14.5 million boxes in 2011 to 10 million boxes in 2012. As a result, Mexican apples would account for 34% of domestic consumption, compared to the average rate of 66%.
• European apple growers saw many of the same weather problems as growers in the U.S. The European apple crop is forecast to be down 9% from 2011 to 16.1 million metric tons.
• Finally, in China, apple production is expected to increase to 38.75 million metric tons, up from 36 million metric tons in 2011. In addition, acreage continues to increase in most areas.
For more information on this year’s apple crop estimate, including a state-by-state breakdown, as well as other highlights and analysis from the USApple Association Outlook Conference, watch for the September/October issue of American/Western Fruit Grower.