RICHLAND, Wash. – U.S. apple processors are paying nearly double what they did just two years ago to make sauce and juice.
Bad weather pummeled other apple growing regions of the world. And a worker shortage is slowing down the harvest in the Northwest.
Apple crops in New York, Michigan, Canada and Europe are down from bad weather. And China, the world’s largest apple producer, is keeping more fruit at home for its growing middle class. That means the price of processing-apples has gone up at least $100 a ton from just two years ago.
Washington state farmers worry that many apples might be left on the trees this year. Photo by Anna King
Apple experts say this year’s Northwest crop is big, but about 40 percent of it was damaged by spring hail. Those are the kind of apples that are useful for sauce and juice producers.
But the Evergreen state is experiencing a deep worker shortage. Dan Kelly, a Washington apple expert, says the state’s growers might be short 5,000 to 10,000 experienced apple pickers.
That means there aren’t enough people to get all the higher-priced fresh apples off trees, let alone processing-fruit.
On the Web:
Photo slideshow from the Washington apple harvest
Early Fuji apples about to be picked at Chiawana Orchards near Pasco, Washington. Photo by Anna King
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