Knowledge Exchange

Ag Economy

Fruit

Apples

  • The fall harvest is complete and estimates are for a smaller Northwest crop, which typically drives the market. The USDA estimate for the 2020 Washington apple crop is 7.40 billion pounds, a 3% decrease from 2019’s large harvest, but still slightly greater than their 5-year average. The national crop is expected to come in around 3% below the 5-year average due to declines in other states.
  • New York’s harvest is estimated at 1.30 billion pounds, 2% below 2019, and 2% below the 5-year average.1
  • A smaller crop, improving export markets, and solid domestic demand have improved the pricing and profit outlook for 2021.2
  • Producers with modern, in-demand varieties should see positive profits, while those with more dated varieties may struggle with soft pricing.
  • Pick-your-own and retail orchards saw very strong demand this past fall due to consumers’ desires for recreational opportunities after being stuck at home by COVID-19 restrictions.
  • New Jersey peach growers reported a poor crop due to weather damage.

Wine & Craft Beverage

  • COVID-19 was expected to substantially hurt this sector in the Northeast. But as with so many surprises in 2020, wine sales seem to have increased. Nationally, the press has referred to an “alcohol boom” during this pandemic, and Nielsen reports strong sales through “off premise” channels. Based on monthly retail sales tracking from two of the major Finger Lakes wine trails, retail sales at wineries with a good web presence, on-line sales and curbside pickup surged in March and April. Retail sales surged again from July to October.
  • Government regulations continue to restrict numbers of visitors to tasting rooms. However, efforts to “retool” the tastings to a longer, more relaxing experience fit well with these regulations. Despite a decline in number of visitors, spending per customer increased as did total sales. Anecdotal information from other regions seems to support data from the Finger Lakes wine trail. It’s too early to tell what wholesale sales were like in the region, but with Nielsen reporting strong off-premise sales we are hopeful for decent numbers in 2020. Other craft beverages likely followed the trend of wineries.

Small Fruits

  • New Jersey highbush growers reported an average crop, with good prices this year, due to short crops in other states. In Maine, prices for lowbush blueberries have shown some recovery, although the volume harvested has declined. Some New Jersey growers reported a smaller-than-normal strawberry crop this season.

Cranberries

  • National production for 2020 came in at 8,970,000 barrels, 2% greater than the 5-year average. Massachusetts production was 2,400,000 barrels, 8% greater than the 5-year average. Juice sales have increased substantially as a result of COVID-19 which has helped pricing.

1 USDA NASS
2 Northwest Farm Credit Services