QUINCY Washington apple growers, after surviving a wild and crazy 2022, are heading into a new year with a market that looks good domestically, but faces some export challenges.
Riley Bocho, director of Congressional Relations and Export Programs for the Northwest Horticultural Council, cited sales of Washington apples to India as an example of export issues.
“In India, we are facing retaliatory duties on apples,” he said. “This tariff was instituted by India in 2018 in response to the United States imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum under Section 232.”
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act gives the President of the United States the power to modify imports, including the use of tariffs, if foreign imports are found to pose a threat to national security. President Donald Trump used that power in March 2018 to impose 25% tariffs on steel and aluminum from most countries except Canada and Mexico, according to the US Bureau of Industry and Security.
Bushoy estimated that Washington farmers sold $120 million worth of apples to India in 2017-18 before the tariffs were imposed. He estimated 2022 sales at about $3 million.
“It’s due in large part to those definitions,” he said.
“We have a similar situation happening in China, where we also have retaliatory tariffs,” he said. “Combined, between India and China, these have cost our industry over the last four years — a few more than four years — more than $800 million. So that’s a big challenge that we’re working on.
“Ultimately, we need to put an end to this retaliation. These are two important markets — just on a pure population basis, the two largest countries in the world. And we’re clearly conveniently located on the Pacific to serve those countries.”
The entire Washington delegation to the US Congress has sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US trade officials, requesting that apple tariffs be put on the agenda when US trade representatives meet their Indian counterparts at a trade policy forum scheduled for mid-January.
“The tree fruit industry has suffered significant losses due to India’s retaliation against US Charge No. 232,” the letter said. “On average, 30% of the apples, pears, and cherries produced in the Pacific Northwest are exported and India was once a solid market. With the imposition of retaliatory tariffs, apple growers in Washington state have continually lost market share in India.”
However, the export problems don’t stop there.
“In the past few years, there have also been a lot of challenges with sea freight — port congestion, and while that has improved, it is still a challenge,” said Bushoy.
The news is even better in the local market, said Tim Koves, communications and events director for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.
“We continue to see strong domestic consumption of apples,” Coves said.
As of January 13, 80 super-sized gallas in Washington were selling for an average of $44 to $46 per 40-pound box, according to the USDA Marketing Report. Size 80 Fujis were selling for an average of about $37 to $39 per box, and Washington’s massive size 80 Honeycrisp was fetching an average of $50 to $52 per box.
Apples for the fresh market are usually sold in 40-pound cartons, and the size determination depends on the number of apples needed to fill the box. So it takes 80 by 80 apples to fill the box. In general, larger apples are more desirable and fetch higher prices. Size 72 Galas would fetch an average of $46 to $48 per 40-pound box. Size 72 Fujis were selling for an average of $37 to $39 per box, and the size 72 Honeycrisp was selling for an average of $60 to $67 per box.
The shape of the fruit is also important, and “good-looking” fruit sells for higher prices.
Bochoy said Canada and Mexico remain the largest markets for Washington’s apples.
“Obviously, the advantage that Mexico and Canada have is that they are land transportation,” he said. “They’ve always been important markets, but that’s definitely been an advantage in the last few years.”
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See more of her work at www.columbiabasinherald.com and www.basinbusinessjournal.com.