The state apple harvest just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association said the crop destined for sale is a whopping 129.7 million boxes, which tops an estimate of 121.5 million boxes a month ago.
The latest number is nearly 19 percent larger than the previous record set in 2010. A box of apples weighs 40 pounds.
Market demand continues to be strong due to short crops elsewhere, so industry representatives remain confident the huge crop can be marketed at a profit to growers.
“We are moving along well at a pace that shows the market demand is there to move a crop that is amazingly large,” commented Jon DeVaney, growers-shippers executive director.
Growers in the competing states of Michigan and New York suffered extensive losses to frost damage this spring. Canadian growers also were affected.
The size of the crop is a combination of what has been shipped to date and an estimate of how much of the crop still in storage ultimately will be packed and shipped. Through Sunday, the industry had shipped 35 million boxes so far this season. That is a pace of around 3 million boxes per week.
By comparison, weekly shipments for the same period for the 2010 crop averaged about 2.8 million boxes.
“The real story is we have a crop that is blowing the doors off the prior record, but we are still shipping at a record pace,” DeVaney said.
Good weather that allowed growers to pick fruit as late as Thanksgiving explains much of the latest increase. But DeVaney said some fruit may have to be diverted to processing because it couldn’t be picked at the optimum time due to labor shortages.
Also, some fruit in storage suffered hail damage that could be shipped under what is known as a hail grade. The quality of that fruit coming out of storage and market conditions at that time will determine whether it’s packed.
“There are some variables that can cause that to change. This is an inexact science when we quote these numbers,” he added.