As the apple harvest in the Northern Hemisphere kicks off, the various global markets face differing challenges and situations. In the Netherlands, the season has begun on a positive note, with strong sales of Elstar apples attributed to their exceptional quality. Meanwhile, Germany is experiencing a return to a more typical harvest after a record-breaking year in 2022, with slightly smaller yields of Elstar and Gala apples. In Austria, frost damage continues to challenge producers, making export opportunities unpredictable. Switzerland maintains its position as a consistent apple producer, with the regions of Thurgau and Valais leading the way. France anticipates a promising marketing year with increased harvest volumes and strong demand, while Italy is optimistic about a bountiful season, especially for organic and club apples.

In North America, Washington State is poised for a substantial apple crop, while New York faces challenges due to adverse weather conditions. Argentina is enjoying export growth to nearby destinations, led by strong demand in Brazil and other South American countries, though European markets show varying trends.

Netherlands: Elstar apples sales started well
The selling season of Elstar apples has started well, according to a Dutch fruit trader. "I think every Dutch supermarket is currently making profit. That's mainly due to the good taste and display life of the apple. The quality of Elstar is really good this year. If you get good Elstar sorted now, you'll pay between 65 and 70 cents, which is still 30% more than last year. Back then, 35-40 cents was an average price and you can't grow for that. I am positive about sales. If you see how smoothly sales are already going now, I wouldn't know why the price couldn't go up further later in the season."

Belgium: Quality and volumes of Belgian apples leave much to be desired
While pears have been a success story in the new Belgian season, that for apples is still lagging behind. "Many Belgian growers have decided to uproot apple trees after a mediocre year, resulting in lower volumes on the market," says a Belgian trader. "In addition, it has been a difficult growing season with a lot of rain, which has caused significant scab infestation. The early apple varieties have sold well, but the combination of the two factors means that the Belgian Jonagold is in danger of becoming a difficult story again."

A similar problem occurs in organic apples. "Scab pressure means that substantially more has gone to the industry. For the fresh market, it seems it will be difficult to stretch the season until the end of June. Prices are better than last year, but we won't have our own supply until the end, I'm afraid."

Germany: Normal harvest in 2023 after 2022 record year
Compared to last year’s record yields, the harvest of Elstar and Gala apples in the Rhineland will be slightly smaller this year. "The fact that the harvest is smaller this year is not unusual. Since the harvest volumes were so large last year, we can speak of a normal harvest in 2023," a grower says. In other production areas the yields are smaller as well. In the region Altes Land in northern Germany a harvest of 299,000 tons is expected, 13 percent less than in the previous year.

Austria: Volatile volumes limit export opportunities
In the Austrian region Styria the apple harvest is in full swing. Many producers are having significant issues with frost damage, an exporter stresses. “In recent years we have often had to deal with major climatic challenges, especially frost damage, which leads to extreme and volatile volumes. Developing 'new' export markets under these volatile conditions is difficult, in some cases not even possible.”

Switzerland: Thurgau and Valais remain largest producers
Depending on the variety Swiss apples are harvested from August to October. Thanks to good storability, they are available all year round. In 2022, Swiss apples were produced on around 3700 hectares. The cantons of Thurgau and Valais are the largest producers. The Gala variety is the clear number one among Swiss apples, followed by Golden Delicious and Braeburn.

France: Promising marketing year
After a difficult 2022 campaign due to rising production costs and inclement weather, this year's orchards were spared any major climatic accidents. According to the Association Nationale Pommes Poires: "The 2023 harvest looks set to be a good one, and should satisfy consumers in terms of both quantity and quality." A total of 1.5 million tonnes of apples are expected to be harvested this year, an increase of 12% on the 2022 crop and 10% on the three-year average (i.e. 120,000 tonnes more than the volumes harvested over the last 3 years). Although the harvest is more abundant than in other years, it has not reached full production potential, but is still close to a normal year in terms of volumes.

On the marketing side, this year's apples should benefit from a positive situation, as the new crop is arriving on a completely empty market, with no overlap of stock with the old crop, coupled with strong demand and very good prices which should be maintained. Market potential is therefore much better this year.

Italy: Optimistic expectations for Italian apples this season
About a month before the start of the 2023/24 marketing year, one of the South Tyrolean consortia is talking about a good start. Production is estimated to be 10% higher than in the 2022/23 campaign, and quality is also looking good, as the summer was less hot and dry than last year. A record crop is predicted for organic apples. As well as this, club apples are on the rise.

SweeTango leads the way. Almost at the same time, the Gala campaign started with the right size, colour and taste. Since mid-September, Kissabel apples from the northern hemisphere have been back on the market: the European crop is up 40%. On 22 September, it was the turn of the Red Delicious. Kanzi and Ambrosia will follow. We will have to wait until the beginning of October for the new season's Golden Delicious.

The Italian market is buoyant, with strong demand from many Italian exporters. Not only that: trade with Spain and Germany is also very dynamic. In the Asian markets, Italian apples have a significant presence: proof of this is the more than 63,000 tonnes exported to the Far East last season, most of which went to India, but also to Singapore and Hong Kong. Other Asian countries such as Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam are playing an increasingly important role thanks to the quality and variety of Italian apples.

Spain: Harvest forecast remains positive despite hailstorms
The apple harvest forecast in Catalonia, the main growing area in Spain, is 266,110 tonnes for 2023, similar to the average of the last 5 years (-1%) and 22% higher than 2022. To date, there have been several hailstorms in Lleida, the most virulent being those on May 7 with about 282 hectares experiencing between 80 and 100% damage, and on June 13 about 250 hectares with an impact of between 70 and 100%. On June 29, several regions were affected by strong winds and heavy rain showers, the damage was diverse, from damage to field structures (torn anti-hailstone nets...), broken branches, etc. but had little impact on the loss of fruit production.

There have been no significant frosts, only occasional ones. In general, the entire country expects high yields of good quality Gala and Golden. The fruit is looking good, although sizes are smaller as a result of the high amount of pieces on the trees and the impact of drought.

Greece: Up to 60% lower supply due to extreme weather
The apple cultivation in Greece is expected to be lower than usual. In Agia Larissa where around 20%-30% of apple production in Greece is cultivated, 80,000 tons of apples are produced per year, while the number of apple trees exceeds 900,000. The harvest begins with early varieties such as Gala and Ozark Gold, then moves to the red varieties like Jeromine, Red Velox, Scarlet, Super Chief and Red Cup and finally the late varieties like Fuji and Granny Smith. Granny Smith is experiencing the greatest growth in this region and occupies about 40% of annual production.

This year, Greek has had to deal with a large storm, but the weather has negatively impacted the Greek apple cultivation for multiple years now: The weather conditions of recent years have made apple cultivation difficult in Greece. Fortunately, in the area of Agia the damage was limited, although it was very close to the epicentre of storm Daniel. In other areas, it left losses; first in human lives and then in property losses, such as buildings, equipment, machinery, roads and fields.

As supply will be lower this year, demand is already increasing. This year, due to the violent change in weather conditions, losses are about 60%.

Poland: Good quality apples despite lower volume
Although apple volumes in Poland are expected to be lower, one apple exporter, is satisfied with the quality of this year’s crop: “In Poland, the total apple harvest seems to be approximately 11 per cent lower when compared to the previous season. That being said, the most popular varieties for export seems to be at a similar level."

The exporter will focus on both the Polish domestic market, which is huge, as well as the European market. For the latter, there’ll be special attention on Central-East Europe. Apples will also be exported overseas, to India and South America. In terms of growth, the exporter hopes to be able to send more shipments to European clients and to some new Asian markets, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Turkey: Promising start to season, but heatwave damage still unknown
The start of the Turkish apple season has been promising so far, with growers and importers across various markets expressing high expectations. Exporters are ready to deliver a good volume of high-quality fruit for export markets. The new season starts with Gala variety, which is expected to be particularly popular this season, with new orchards coming into production in the Karaman/Nigde area. The harvesting of Gala apples started around the last days of August. Demand for Gala apples has greater than expected especially from India and overall, the Turkish apple season is expected to be a success in 2023, with good quality and volume expected.

However there are several problems that could come to light after the heatwave that plagued Turkish orchards this summer. Heatwaves can cause a number of quality problems for apple trees, such as sunburn, water stress, fruit drop and reduced fruit quality. The extent of the impact of the heatwave on the apple season will depend on a number of factors, including the severity and duration of the heatwave, the timing of the heatwave during the growing season, and the resilience of the apple trees.

India: Imported apples increasingly popular
A variety of apples, from various origins have gained popularity among Indian consumers. According to one importer the most popular origins for imported apples include Italy, Poland, Turkey and Serbia. These countries have established themselves as key suppliers of apples to various markets. Among the varieties, Italian apples, especially varieties like Gala, Red Delicious, Epli, often stand out for their quality and flavour. Polish apples, including varieties like Jonagold and Idared, are also well regarded. Turkish apples, such as Gala, Red Delicious and Granny Smith, are notable for their crispness and sweetness. Meanwhile, Serbian apples like Gala Pink Lady and Stark Delicious have gained popularity. These origins and varieties contribute to the diverse apple offerings in the import market.

North America: Large 2023 apple crop expected
Washington, the largest apple growing state in the U.S., is welcoming a better apple crop this season. Last year’s crop hit around the 100 million box mark, but this year the state anticipates a total production volume between 127 and 130 million boxes.

Following a later start, Washington’s fruit looks clean and free of a lot of the rubs and russeting seen when there’s wind or temperature extremes.

While Michigan is harvesting another sizeable crop--about 90 percent of last year’s record crop--Pennsylvania’s growers are picking close to estimate which is on track for a big volume crop.

The Northeast has a share of about 10-15 percent in U.S. apple production. Apple growers in New York state had a challenging growing season. “Conditions were not perfect due to a late blossom, early fruit-set freeze, and some hail throughout the summer.” As a result, the state’s total apple production is expected to be down about 20 percent.

In British Columbia, early indications are that yields will be down about 15 percent this year while in Ontario, the harvest looks similar to 2022’s crop.

Argentina: Sales to nearby destinations boost exports
According to the fruit statistical monthly of CAFI, the Argentine Chamber of integrated fruit growers, with data from January to August 2023, apple exports from Río Negro and Neuquén have amounted to 51,056 tonnes, increasing 28% compared to the same period of 2022.

Looking at the main destination countries for Argentine apples in this period, it can be inferred that sales to destinations on the continent itself have driven this significant growth.

Brazil has been the largest destination for the apples, receiving 31% of the total with 15,824 tonnes, after increasing its purchases by 44% year-on-year; Bolivia follows with 7,738 tonnes (+10%) and, after experiencing an increase of 151%, Paraguay is in third position with 6,954 tonnes. And although Paraguay's growth has been notable, Ecuador's growth is even more so, which, in tenth position among the largest importers of Argentine apples, increased its purchases by 407%.

Sales to Russia, for their part, decreased by 36% in the period analysed, as well as in different markets on the European continent: France reduced its purchases by 34%, Norway by 42%, the Netherlands by 6%, and Italy by 100%.

Next week: Global Market Overview Cucumber!