An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, but it sure lines the pockets of Washington’s apple growers.
Apples were worth more than $2 billion to Washington farmers in 2012, the first crop in state history to cross that threshold, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That was 16.5 percent more than in 2011, and the increase was fueled by a big increase in Washington production and catastrophic weather problems in the competing states of New York and Michigan.
“Last year was an anomaly,” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, which is based in Wenatchee, the self-proclaimed apple capital of the world. “Everything lined up perfectly. It was incredible.”
Apples, with a record nearly 129-million-bushel fresh crop, were valued at $2.25 billion in 2012, according to the USDA.
Before Boeing, Microsoft or Starbucks existed, apples were Washington’s iconic product. The fruit is grown in irrigated orchards, mostly in the valleys of Central Washington, where hot days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for crisp, juicy apples.
Washington grows about 65 percent of the nation’s apples. The crop has long been the state’s most valuable for farmers. In 2010, apples were worth $1.5 billion to the approximately 5,000 growers. In 2011, it grew to $1.9 billion.
The $2.25 billion revenues for last year reflected only sales to the fresh market.
Including the value of apples diverted to make juice, applesauce and other products, Washington apples were worth a staggering $3.4 billion in 2012, according to the Washington Growers Clearing House in Wenatchee.