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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

11% decrease estimated for Washington State apple harvest

Ripening apples are shown at the Sunset Orchard in Green Bluff in 2020.  (Libby Kamrowski/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association forecasts the state’s apple harvest this year will be 108.7 million 40-pound boxes of fresh apples, an 11.1% decrease from 122.3 million boxes in 2021.

“We are pleased with the size of the harvest, particularly in the face of a long, cold spring,” said Jon DeVaney, the association president. “Growing seasons are never the same, and currently many WSTFA members are still evaluating the impact of prolonged cold weather and ongoing crop development.”

The estimate released Monday is based on a survey of association members and represents the total volume of apples that will eventually be packed and sold on the fresh market.

It does not include product sent to processors. About 80% of a typical apple crop is sold on the fresh market, which is more profitable, DeVaney said.

Apple harvest typically begins in August and continues into November, so the forecast is subject to several more months of variable weather, which can affect the final harvest total.

Snow on blooming trees this spring interfered with pollination and damaged blossoms, DeVaney said.

While this summer’s weather did not have a major impact, last summer’s excessive heat did have residual effects on this year’s crop.

“Growers often have observed that after a hot summer that stresses trees, they’ll have a lighter crop the following year,” he said.

The estimate shows that five popular apple varieties make up the majority of the harvest.

Gala leads production at 20%, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp are each projected at 14%, followed by Granny Smith at 13.4%, and Fuji at 12.7% of total production.

Cosmic Crisp, a proprietary varietal grown only in Washington state continues to grow in its share of the total crop. This year, Cosmic Crisp is 4.6% of the harvest, up from 3.2% last year.

Commercially launched in 2019, the newcomer was developed specifically with Washington growing conditions in mind by researchers at Washington State University.

It has a similar flavor profile to Honeycrisp, one of its parents.

“It’s a nice balance of sweet and tartness with that nice firm crispy texture as well,” DeVaney said.

Designed to be more tolerant of changes in weather than Honeycrisp, the share of the new crop is projected to grow in coming years based on the number of trees that have already been planted, DeVaney said.

Apples are the state’s leading agricultural commodity, representing 20% of the state’s farm-gate agricultural value in 2020. Washington apples are sold in over 40 countries. On average, 30% of the harvest is exported.

Washington also leads the nation in the production of organic apples with over 90% of the country’s output. The organic forecast for 2022, is 14.4 million boxes, or 13% of the total harvest.

“Apples are a symbol of Washington,” said Derek Sandison, director of the Washington Department of Agriculture. “Wherever I go in the world, the minute I say I’m representing Washington, people tell me how much they love our apples.

“The apple harvest is also vitally important to our state’s economy, representing approximately $7.5 billion in annual economic impact,” he added. “Although they have faced many challenges this year, I wish the workforce and the state’s growers success as they begin another great harvest.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.