Sales of Washington apples to Mexican consumers are dramatically lower this year as a result of the economic nosedive the peso took last December, officials say.
Total sales have been 2.3 million boxes so far this year, compared with 5.2 million at this time last year, according to industry figures.
But there is evidence that apple exports to Mexico have been on the rebound as that country’s economy begins to stabilize.
Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, the industry organization that manages the Mexico program, said shippers are confident of long-term prospects for exports to Mexico despite recent difficulties.
“It’s a matter of the customer being able to afford it and having the situation stabilize to where the risks are more reasonable,” Archer said.
Forecasters say sales this year will fall far short of last year’s record of more than 8 million 42-pound boxes. But the number of boxes being shipped has slowly increased over the past six weeks.
Shipments to Mexico have exceeded 150,000 boxes a week since early April, industry officials said.
Mike Hambleton of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee said the stabilization of the peso has given Mexican importers confidence they will be able to pay for apples imported from Washington.
When the peso’s value plummeted last December, some shippers called back trucks carrying fruit to Mexico to protect buyers from receiving fruit costing 30 percent more than they had expected. Some shippers still haven’t received payment for fruit they sent during the economic upheaval.
Greg Bailey of George F. Joseph Warehouse in Yakima said there had been fears that Mexican consumers would turn away from apples during the economic uncertainty.
But, he said, “It does seem they are continuing to buy Washington apples. They may be buying a few less per capita.”