The apple harvest season is swinging into full gear, and in the NW corner of the country organic apples are growing on more trees than ever before.
The Packer, the leading produce-industry newspaper, reports that the volume of Washington State’s organic apple crop will grow by another 30% this year. Apple orchards now are found throughout the Columbia River Basin in central Washington, at a variety of elevations, with the region producing the vast majority of the organic apples grown nationwide – 98% by one estimate.
A recent Washington State University study counted 22,116 acres of certified organic apple orchards in 2017. The harvest is expected to rise to 25,000-26,600 acres in 2018, as new organic acres are certified and production begins moving into the organic market.
Hygeia Analytics is based in the great Pacific Northwest, and we welcome this agricultural success story — and enjoy its fruits! We have written about the booming Washington organic apple industry extensively in the past. See our three part feature for a deep dive.
One thing is clear — consumer demand, here in the U.S. and from abroad, is driving this phenomenal rate of growth. Growers report that buyers and grocery store chains are increasing existing organic orders, while at the same time more mainstream customers are seeking out organic options.
Some chains and stores have told WA State apple suppliers and industry leaders that they want to switch to 100% fresh organic apples as soon as the supply is there to match demand.
Most orchards focus on specialty and popular apple varieties, you won’t see many trees growing organic run-of-the-mill red delicious apples. Popular types include “gala, Honeycrisp, fuji, granny smith, Ambrosia, and Pink Lady.”
While in general, organic apples have fetched premium prices, industry experts quoted in the story expect the price gap between organic and conventional fruit to narrow this year. However, many growers remain convinced organic demand will continue to grow, which is a good thing since many more acres are already in the transition to organic production.
Tob Burfield, “Organic apple production up 30% in Washington,” The Packer, September 18, 2018.