Organic apple season to linger longer


Washington apple growers produced a record organic crop this past year, besting a projected preseason estimate to finish at about 15.5 million cartons, which represents more than 10 percent of the total apple volume from the state. 

As such there are more organic apples to be marketed this season, and the sector should have several varieties available through spring and into summer and even a couple that could last until the 2018-19 crop begins harvest in September.

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Matt Miles, an apple salesman and the organic program coordinator for FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC, Yakima, WA, said there should be promotable volumes, especially of the smaller fruit, past the spring and into the summer.  “The organic crop is heavy to Galas, Fujis, Granny Smiths, Red Delicious.  We should have good supplies of those varieties into June, even July, “Miles said.  “And some varieties could last until the new crop comes in…depending upon when harvesting begins.”

He said supplies of Honey Crisps and some of the other varieties are starting to get tight, but there are still promotional opportunities for retailers “definitely on 100 size and smaller” on varieties such as Gala, Granny and Red Delicious.

Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, WA, said the increased production is allowing the organic apple season to last longer this year, but it is also a reflection of improved storage techniques.  “The main reason the season is being extended is because there are some unique things about organic apples and we (the packers) are figuring out better ways to store them.  This is exciting news for retailers,” she said.  “They are going to be able to offer organic apples to their customers for a longer period of time.”

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In the past, Shales said most organic apple varieties were out of the market by late spring.  “This year we are going to push into June and July and some of the varieties should last the entire season,” she said.

Currently the firm is selling organic Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, and Stemilt’s proprietary Pinata variety, along with major varieties, including Galas, Fuji, Granny Smiths and Red Delicious.

“Another important factor this year is the size profile,” Shales said. “The apples – both conventional and organic – are trending toward the smaller sizes.  That means there are lots of promotional opportunities on bagged apples.”

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She added that for all apples, Red Delicious remains a value variety in which promotions can be very aggressive.

Stemilt saw a huge increase in its organic production this season as it had many acres move into the organic certification status as they surpassed their three-year transition period.  “At Stemilt, at least 35 percent of our production is organic and we continue to increase our percentage of organic apples,” Shales said.

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