As fall harvests continue, Washington hop, apple and wine grape growers are expecting to at least meet last year’s production levels.
It’s likely the apple harvest will be close to 137 million boxes, an 18 percent increase from last year’s harvest.
“So far, the feeling is that we are going to be in that neighborhood,” said Tim Kovis, spokesman for the Washington Tree Fruit Association.
The apple harvest is continuing, and Kovis said better numbers would be available next week.
Last year, 116.7 million 40-pound boxes were packed and sent to market as fresh apples. Kovis said the forecasted 137 million likewise does not include apples destined for processing into juice or other products.
This year is the first time the long-awaited Cosmic Crisp apple will be available on retail markets. At this time, Kovis said 400,000-500,000 boxes of the Washington State University-developed varietal are expected to be packed.
Another of the area’s major crops is hops, which are now scenting the air in downtown Yakima near the Fruit Row warehouses.
While the hop yards have been cleared out, final numbers won’t be available until the end of the year when processing wraps up, said Ann George, Hop Growers of America’s executive director. But early reports suggest the crop harvest will be close to the 107 million pounds that were harvested last year, she said.
“From what I am hearing, the mature crop is good,” George said. “The milder year contributed to some nice growth and good yield and excellent quality across the board.”
Last year’s harvest represented 42 percent of the world’s hop production, George said.
George said more acres were planted this year, with additional varieties of hops going in. She said there are about 60 varieties of hops grown in the area, ranging from the alpha hops that give beer its bitter flavor to the aromatics that are prized by craft brewers.
While craft brewers have driven growth in the aromatic varieties and command a larger market share than 10 years ago, industrial brewers who make mass-produced beers are still major customers of Pacific Northwest hops, George said.
Sean Benson, hop division manager for Roy Farms, said this year’s harvest at the Moxee-based enterprise, which wrapped up Wednesday morning, was looking a bit better than last year. He said a hop yard did go down with a thunderstorm in mid-August, but some of the hops there were able to be salvaged.
Wine grapes, which are being harvested now, are expected to be similar to 2018, according to Northwest Financial Credit services.
In 2018, 261,000 tons of wine grapes were crushed into wine, according to the Washington State Wine Commission. That was second behind 2016, when the total was 270,000 tons.