Knowledge Exchange

Ag Economy

Fruit

Apples

New York’s 2018 apple production is forecast at 31 million bushels (1.3 billion lbs.), slightly over last year, and roughly on par with the state’s five-year average.1 Yield and fruit size has been fairly good, but somewhat variable across various parts of the region. Excess moisture late in the season caused some fruit splitting.

USDA estimates overall U.S. apple production at 11.5 billion pounds, less than one percent larger than last year’s crop. Washington’s production came in at roughly 12 percent less than the prior year, while Michigan rebounded from 2017’s poor harvest, with a 40 percent increase.

A smaller Washington crop and reasonably strong demand should support good movement of product through 2019. Prices have been averaging slightly below last year. As is typical, price and movement varies by variety, with demand for some older varieties being weak. 

In the processing apple market, prices have improved slightly, but have not kept pace with rising costs of production. Some increased interest in cider varieties due to growth in that sector.

Peaches

Following 2017’s record year, yields and prices were off somewhat resulting in a roughly break-even year for many growers.

Juice Grapes

Favorable growing conditions led to an above average crop in the East for 2018. Juice grape prices have been low for years, but major processors seem to have balanced inventory more closely with demand, which should lead to higher pay prices this year.

Wine

2018 was a good year for grape yield, but wet conditions brought significant disease pressure. Storage tanks are mostly full from last year’s bumper crop, so juice and bulk wine will have to find markets, probably at lower prices. Reports indicate that visitor counts continue to decline slightly, but overall retail spending is keeping pace or slightly higher than last year. This means visitors are spending more at each winery which could be due to overall improved economic conditions in the general economy. The increase in retail sales is mainly in increased tasting fees, non-wine sales and slightly increased wine prices rather than increases in cases sold.

Small Fruits

New Jersey highbush growers reported reduced yields, and average prices, resulting in a mediocre-to-average year. Meanwhile, in Maine, the wild blueberry market is struggling with prices at a 10-year low and reduced yields. Highbush blueberries are often sold on the fresh market, and lowbush, or “wild” blueberries are generally sold for processing, which explains the price disparity.

Cranberries

The cranberry market continues to struggle with low prices for both independent growers and cooperative members. USDA/NASS estimates 2018 U.S. cranberry production at 8.63 million barrels, three percent higher than 2017. Massachusetts’ crop is estimated at 1.90 million barrels, one percent lower than last year.

Continued ample production will limit upward price movement. The industry’s Cranberry Marketing Committee projects that supply will exceed demand in the coming year by 66 percent. In an effort to manage supply, USDA passed a 25 percent marketing order reduction for the 2018 crop, an increase from last year’s 15 percent handler withholding.


1 New York Apple Association