Lagging Northwest Apple Exports Worry Growers And Packing Houses As Tariff Uncertainty Continues

File photo/Washington Apple Commission
There are lots of boxes of apples in regional warehouses waiting to ship, but trade uncertainty with Mexico, China and India is causing delays. CREDIT: FILE PHOTO/WASHINGTON APPLE COMMISSION

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With harvest wrapped up, the regional apple industry is in prime packing time. But growers and shippers are nervous. The fruit isn’t moving to international markets as quick as usual because of the trade wars.

Exports take about 30 percent of the Northwest’s total apple crop. Many farmers and packing houses are concerned that sales to its three largest export markets – Mexico, China and India – are way down.

The trade wars mean apple sales to Mexico are down 26 percent down from this time last year. China is down 33 percent. And India is down 83 percent.

For India, there’s no actual tariff in place yet, but the country might impose one in mid-December. That market uncertainty throughout the trade war has depressed sales the same as if there were a tariff.

Part of the problem is it takes 30 to 40 days to get a container of apples to India, and buyers and sellers are nervous to strike deals that might change underfoot.

“There is no doubt that in particular markets, and certainly with certain varieties, Red Delicious being one … that pricing is under pressure,” said Mark Powers, president of the Yakima-based Northwest Horticultural Council.

The silver lining is it’s a smaller apple crop this year. But there’s still 117 million 40-pound boxes of Northwest apples left to sell – sitting asleep in chilly warehouse, waiting to ship.

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Cristina Campos removes damaged apples from the flume, the front end of the packing line, on Tuesday November, 20, 2018, at Gilbert Orchards in Yakima. CREDIT: KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER

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