Washington Apple Report Gives High Score To Industry

Warnings include export decline, regulations, less labor.

Published on: Jan 2, 2013

A new Washington apple industry economic health report paints a picture of profit for the transportation industry in the state, highlighting the Port of Quincy for its "cold train" services.

The port is cited as a "key freight mobility" location serving several packers.

"The Port of Quincy operates an intermodal terminal that ships apples and other refrigerated and frozen products to the Midwest with the Cold Train service," the report on the economic impact of the apple industry states.

"This service started in 2010 and features specially designed containers that can be trans-loaded from trucks and rail and back to trucks for efficient transport and delivery. The shipping volume is expanding rapidly and rail deliveries are being extended to eastern U.S. markets.

Washingtons apple industry continues to look promising to industry spokesmen.
Washington's apple industry continues to look promising to industry spokesmen.

"Service is provided six days per week. About 70% of the east bound cargo is fresh Washington apples."

The independent report from a Portland economic survey firm posts a statement illustrating that the apple business is an industry of growth for the state, a crop enterprise that has grown dramatically for four decades, the authors note.

With new markets opening abroad in Asia, the Middle East, Mexico and Latin America, the Washington apple has become an international commodity traded on its high quality value. While old-time varieties like Delicious may have built the new surge for the industry in earlier years, newcomers like Fuji and Gala have come to the foreground as highly popular choices in more recent times.

Red Delicious, once the vanguard of the Wenatchee apple scenario commanding nearly 70% of the business in the '90s, fell to 31% in 2010, the report documents. Moving up since the '90s, when they were relatively unknown, are the Fuji and Gala commanding a 35% market share in 2010. Along with Granny Smith apples, the trio now represents the bulk of apple production from the Evergreen State.

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~Total revenue generated by the Washington apple, when all related services are included, comes to nearly $7 billion, the report compilations reveal.

But the industry faces many challenges, the writers add, including the embellishment of trade along with the effort to defeat trade barriers and unfair foreign regulations that act as blockades to expanded export sales.

Not to mention what the report labels a "wide array of international competitors."

Nevertheless, "growers, packers and   marketers of Washington apples are optimistic," the report states.

One of the basic headaches mounting in apples and all orchard industries is the dwindling labor supply, one reason Washington State University researchers based in Wenatchee are working hard to develop mechanical harvesters and other reduced-labor devices such as thinning tools that cut work hours and manpower needs.

High regulatory costs for the industry are also listed as a challenging obstacle to expansion of the industry, noting that such rules "could restrict future business growth."

Supportive government policies, the report notes, "will be invaluable to keeping the Washington apple industry on an upward growth path."

Apples remain the state's No. 1 crop, leading the agricultural charge While labor availability problems remain, employee compensation from the apple machine is put at $1.95 billion a year, and the business in total posts a tax bill of nearly $500 million annually.

For more on this story, see the January issue of Western Farmer-Stockman.