Washington gears up for large apple crop

From Fresh Plaza | 17 August 2023

Overview of apples and pears from Washington in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on August 17, 2023. 

Washington’s apple crop has been experiencing a great growing season. “We had very good spring weather and conditions during pollination were optimal,” says Dan Davis with Starr Ranch Growers. “The entire growing season saw favorable weather and if Mother Nature cooperates during the harvest season, it will be a large crop with high-quality fruit.” While the crop is not expected to break a volume record, it will be larger than the five-year average. According to the August estimate, the volume will be around 134 million cases.

Just about every apple variety will be up in volume compared to last year. Cosmic Crisp is expected to see a significant increase as new plantings are maturing. Honeycrisp is another variety that had a really good growing season and expectations for crop size are high. “This season, we think Honeycrisp will reach the potential we know it has,” commented Davis.

Starr Ranch is currently in the opening phases of harvest. “We started harvest of our early varieties Gala and Honeycrisp,” he said. The start of the 2023-2024 season signifies the transition of last year’s crop to the new crop. “It is a choreographic transition as last year’s crop made it from coast to coast just until the new harvest started. Altogether, a smooth transition this year that was well orchestrated.”

apple volumes by history 5

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

Retailer conversations

A large crop will result in growers, marketers, and retailers having to find a balance between the return money to the grower and the sales price at retail level. “It’s a delicate balance and we are having conversations with retailers to find a happy middle road,” Davis commented. “Most retailers are receptive to these conversations and appreciate the transparency.” These dialogues with retailers picked up during Covid and continued during times of high inflation last year. “We’ve been discussing the inflationary impact and are having a lot more dialogue than we ever had before in an effort to combat inflation together and move a large crop while still receiving acceptable returns for our growers.”


For pears, the situation looks a bit different than for apples. Volume for the 2023-2024 season is down with the August estimate to be below the five-year average at 14.5 million boxes for the Pacific Northwest. The lower volume is the result of a combination of factors. “However, we expect the decrease in volume at our warehouse to be insignificant,” said Davis. Starr Ranch is excited about the quality of the fruit. “The crop is very clean, and we expect a high share of top grade, US No. 1. The amount of fancy grade pears will be very little.” New crop Starkrimson and Bartletts are starting now.

pear volumes by history

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

Gem variety

While Starr Ranch markets all common pear varieties, Davis is looking forward to harvest of their exclusive Gem variety. It’s a fairly new variety that’s now in its third or fourth year. “Gem is our proprietary variety that is available from October through January, and we will be seeing a significant increase in production this year.” Gem presents itself differently from other pear varieties. It is considered a ready-to-eat pear. When eaten fresh off the tree, it’s crunchy and sweet, but when further ripened, it’s more mellow. “Consumers really like it.”

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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