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US: As Washington Awaits Heat Wave for 2021 Apple, Ships Waiting to Enter Los Angeles Ports

Washington waiting to find out how the recent heat wave affected its apples

The number of ships anchored in San Pedro Bay, waiting to enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are on the increase again as Washington is waiting for heat wave effects on the 2021 apple crop. Following the heat wave that covered large parts of the Pacific Northwest, the Washington apple industry is waiting to find out how the 2021 apple crop is affected.

Vice-President of marketing for CMI Orchards based in Wenatchee, WA, George Harter, says “We’ve had record temperatures here in the Wenatchee Valley so we’re a little bit
unsure as to how we’re going to come out. “We won’t start harvesting until the middle of August. But again, with the heat, we won’t know the affect it will have on the apples until we get closer to harvest.”
While the heat itself was an issue, it was the high sustained temperatures that are of greater concern. “Two weeks ago on Tuesday we were at 117 degrees here followed up by 113 degrees. We’ll probably end up with a record heat index for the summer”, says Harter.

As much as they could be used, heat mitigation efforts were employed on the crop. Growers use shade nets and overhead cooling systems to help mitigate high temperatures. “Our growers do what they can to protect their orchards and keep the fruit as cool as possible,” says Harter.
This is coming at a time when CMI Orchards believes 2021 will be a big year for the premium and branded apple category. While consumers are looking for something different in
apples, retailers are looking to gain more dollars for the volumes they’re
selling.
“There seems to be an appetite to look at club and premium apple varieties”, says Harter, noting CMI markets a number of these branded apples including Envy, Jazz, KIKU, Kanzi,
Ambrosia Gold and more.
“So if your core variety is $1.49, your premium is $1.99 and your organic premium is $2.49, it
gives a really good mix to drive sales into those higher retail items–trading
up shoppers and growing your category.”

It’s also a time when there’s great consideration over packaging options for apples–particularly
following a year where bagged apple sales proved a popular choice with consumers for their convenience and perceived safety.
“So the questions we are facing are: what packages do customers want their apples in? Fibre? Plastic clamshell or bag? What size bag would that be? These questions will not have a linear answer”, says Harter.

“The answers will vary by region and community because while there are preferences for different flavors of apples, there are also preferences for package types as well. Sustainability is going to be huge for consumers and packaging is just one piece of it. However, going by a mid-July data from the local Marine Exchange, more than 20 vessels were at anchor awaiting berth space- reflecting increased imports from China after a pause during June, when as few as 10 container vessels were waiting in the Bay.

The pause coincided with the closure of large portions of the export hub of Yantian port in South China, which caused significant disruption to global container shipping.
Just released results
for June show that In June, the Port of Los Angeles handled 82 containerships carrying 876,430 teu. It was the busiest June in the port’s long history – and a nearly 27% increase compared to June 2020, when volumes were reduced due to the pandemic.

Shipping, usually under the radar, has become a mainstream issue, as supply chain disruptions have continued. Carl Bentzel, a Commissioner at the Federal Maritime Commission, was quoted in the mainstream Washington Post as saying: “I am extremely concerned now about the economic impact caused by the current situation. This could be the first time the public sees the impact of maritime shipping disruption since World War II.”

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