How ‘bout them apples!

January 30, 2014
By David Granatstein

Organic Gala apples at the WSU Sunrise OrchardWashington State apples are known worldwide.  The 2012 crop set a record at 120 million boxes (40-lb) and sales were brisk at good prices due to the freeze-out of much of the production in the eastern U.S.  In that year, Washington’s production was 70% of all apples in the US.  What is even more remarkable is that by January each year, 75-90% of all apples in storage in the US are in Washington, meaning we are by far the dominant supplier to our domestic market.  These numbers are even higher for organic apples. 

The proliferation of new varieties has helped spur consumer interest in apples and their willingness to pay higher prices.  Current prices for Honeycrisp apples, the current “Cinderella” variety, are $1.34/lb FOB (sold at the shipping dock of the fruit company) and more than that at the grocery check-out.  Organic Honeycrisp are priced at $1.75/lb.  In fact, for the major organic apple varieties, their current price premium over conventional apples is about $20 per 40-lb box, probably the highest it has been since price data have been tracked.  This despite the fact that the volume of organic apples sold has steadily increased.  The average price of organic apples rose from about $22/box FOB for the 2008 crop of 5.6 million boxes shipped to about $33/box FOB for the 2012 crop of over 8.3 million boxes shipped.  Thus the trend lines for price and supply are both rising, suggesting that demand is still growing and not saturated.  In fact, demand for the 2013 crop is higher than ever but the smaller crop means that it cannot be met and more organic apples will likely be imported.

Meanwhile, acres of organic apples in Washington declined from a peak of 15,735 in 2009 to 13,978 in 2013.  Increasing yields from new high-density plantings is part of the explanation, along with less diversion of organically-grown apples to conventional markets.  Washington growers reported over $150 million in gross sales of organic apples in 2011.  With 8.3 million boxes sold at an average price of $33 each in 2013, organic apples added over $270 million to the state’s economy.  Not bad for a niche specialty crop.  Apples are the top value crop for Washington State and are the top organic crop in the state as well, by far.  So among the many bright spots that agriculture in our state has enjoyed in recent years, organic apples shine.

For more information on organic fruits and other crops grown in the state, visit the CSANR organic statistics web page at http://csanr.wsu.edu/trends-in-washington-agriculture/organic-statistics/ .

Filed under Organic Farming

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