Lower organic apple volumes out of South America expected

From Fresh Plaza | 27 March 2023

Overview of grapes from Mexico in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on March 24, 2023. 

The US organic apple market is dealing with conflicting pressures. Washington’s organic apple production is down about 25 percent. “With supplies being shorter and grower expenses up, the price per pound is generally up as well,” says Ben Johnson with Bridges Produce. “This is conflicting at a time when consumers are trying to pinch pennies in response to high inflation. It is a tough balancing act and as a result, there’s just not a lot of energy in the market right now.”

Increased imports from New Zealand

Johnson expects the current mood will also have an impact on the import season. “We’ve built a strong organic import program out of New Zealand, Argentina and Chile, but the growers in these countries also struggle with inflation and rising costs.” As a result, prices are expected to be up. On the bright side however, there will be more room for imports this season due to Washington’s short crop. “In other years, some Washington shippers are able to go year-round with organic apples, but storage levels don’t allow for that this year.” New Zealand is now starting to pack Galas and the arrival is usually delayed until June to let the domestic market finish up. This year however, Galas will be brought in earlier, likely around mid-May. Overall, the expectation is for New Zealand to ship more organic apples to the US this year. In addition to Galas, there will be a strong organic Honeycrisp program. Other varieties include Fuji, Koru, Braeburn, and Granny Smith.

Strong processing market South America

Apple import numbers from South America on the other hand, are expected to be a bit lower this year. The processing market in South America is currently quite strong, making it less attractive export organic apples. “Lower harvest costs, lower packing costs, and solid returns make growers cautious about what they send for export,” commented Johnson. Solid returns against a much lower risk will likely keep supplies from South America tight this season. The apples that will make their way over from Argentina and Chile are expected to arrive in the US as soon as early May. Varieties include Gala, Fuji, Cripps Pink, and Granny Smith. “Lower volumes out of Washington and lower volumes out of South America set the stage for strong pricing during summer,” added Johnson.

apple volumes by history 4

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Organic pears

Organic pears are exclusively imported from Argentina. As opposed to Washington’s short apple crop, the pear season was more regular. “In fact, we are seeing more organic pears in storage than we saw last year,” said Johnson. As a result, the initial weeks of the import season have been less brisk. “There is still quite a bit of domestic D ’Anjou and Bosc in storage, which will wrap up in about two weeks while organic Bartlett’s and Red Bartlett’s from Argentina are arriving now.” Like with apples, consumers are expected to be careful in their selection of pears, choosing lower priced items.

Organic apples and pears from Bridges’ import program arrive into the ports of Southern New Jersey as well as Los Angeles. From there, product is distributed across the country.

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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