Growers will need to produce niche varieties and maximize production efficiency, marketers say.
Washington state’s apple production will continue to expand, with a fresh crop of 200 million boxes possible in the future, two top marketers predicted during the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting in December.
Robert Kershaw, president of Kershaw Fruit Company in Yakima, said when he predicted a decade ago that Washington would some day produce 120 million boxes, he was laughed out of the room.
But production has surpassed that volume. The 2014 Washington apple crop is estimated at an unprecedented 155 million boxes, up from 115 million boxes last year—a 35 percent increase.
Washington is one of the few apple growing regions of the world that has increased both apple acreage and production per acre, Kershaw said. “We will continue to grow and produce larger and larger crops.”
Mike Taylor, marketing director at Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, also believes the industry will grow in leaps and bounds.
“The rate of change is going to blow your mind,” he said. “I think this industry is going to move 200 million boxes of fresh apples—not in the next five years, but in the future for sure.”