Apple Prices to Increase on Washington State Drought, Gro Expects

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Shipping point prices for Washington state’s early-variety apples are up as much as 63% from last year in the wake of the state’s unusually hot and dry summer, signaling that apple retail prices are likely to increase further as well. 

Retail prices already are up, but to a lesser degree. Early September apple retail prices averaged $1.57 a pound nationwide, which is 20% above their five-year average, before easing back to $1.31/pound, also a five-year peak. Apples still in storage from the 2020 crop may be currently moderating gains in retail prices, which can be expected to move higher as those reserve supplies are depleted. 

Behind the price increases is Washington state’s excessive summer heat, which has caused sunburned fruit and bitter pits. Unusually hot days and warm nighttime temperatures also leave apples with less time to mature, and early varieties, such as Gala and Honeycrisp, are expected to be smaller in size this year. Nationwide trucking shortages, which have caused a disruption to the food supply chain, will continue to face increased pressure throughout the balance of the year especially in the Pacific Northwest. 

Apples require a lot of moisture and specific temperatures to mature properly. According to Gro’s Navigator for Agriculture app, weighted to highlight apple growing regions in Washington, soil moisture and vegetative health were low all summer, while the Gro Drought Index (GDI) showed “severe” levels of drought for the state. GDI readings for Yakima County, a top apple producing region, have been above 3.5, or “extreme” drought, since early July. 

What impact the state’s unprecedented hot and dry conditions will have on later apple varieties remains unknown. Growers also don’t know how this summer’s conditions might affect the storage life of this year’s apples, which could impact next year’s supplies. 

Currently, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association forecasts the state’s total 2021 apple crop to be around 125 million boxes, a slight increase from 122 million boxes harvested last year, but still about 10 million boxes fewer than the 2019 harvest. 

Mid-September shipping point prices from Yakima, Washington, were $24-$28 per carton for 113-size apples (a 5.9-ounce apple), up 63% from $15-$17 last year, according to USDA AMS. For 100-size apples (a 6.7-ounce apple), shipping point prices were $26-$34, up 33% from last year.

This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.


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