Trends in Washington State's Apple Industry

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  • 1 Agricultural Economist, Fitch & Marshall, Inc., Agribusiness Advisors, P.O. Box 583, Yakima, WA 98907.
  • 2 Assistant Professor, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6414.

Washington is the leading producer of apples in the United States. North-central and south-central Washington and the Columbia Basin are the major production regions within the state. The climate of these production regions is characterized by cold winters and hot, dry summers with high levels of light intensity. The principal varieties produced are still `Delicious', `Golden Delicious', and `Granny Smith'; however, `Fuji', `Gala', and `Braeburn' have been planted widely since 1988. Despite increasing levels of production and lower prices beginning in 1986, apple prices have recovered relatively well in recent years due to aggressive exports to southeast Asia and Mexico. Increased international competition has resulted in a trend towards higher-density orchards using dwarfing rootstock so that earlier production can be achieved. Evaluation of the performance of new varieties in Washington's climatic conditions has increased. Although not the focus of this article, several social and environmental issues are facing the Washington apple industry, including increasing restrictions on chemical usage, competition for a limited water resource, regulation of ground water quality, pending labor relations legislation, and increasing urbanization pressures.

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