WASHINGTON COMMISSION EXPECTS BUMPER APPLE CROP

WENATCHEE, Wash. (FNS) -- To head off the prospect of plunging prices as an expected bumper crop of apples approaches this season, the Washington State Apple Commission will launch an aggressive merchandising effort aimed at increasing consumption by 25%.l Produce Conference, held in June in La Quinta, Calif."There will be a benefit in the years after, when we move consumption up and can make good,

WENATCHEE, Wash. (FNS) -- To head off the prospect of plunging prices as an expected bumper crop of apples approaches this season, the Washington State Apple Commission will launch an aggressive merchandising effort aimed at increasing consumption by 25%.

l Produce Conference, held in June in La Quinta, Calif.

"There will be a benefit in the years after, when we move consumption up and can make good, strong profits," he said. "With this situation we can't look at today and tomorrow, but what the future will bring further down the road. We have to look at the next two to ten years, not what we have to give up in year one," he said, with obvious concern about the possibility that discounting will run rampant with a larger crop turned loose on the market.

This year's crop projection is 107 million cases, while to date the standing record has been 94 million cases total. "The best domestic marketing has ever moved is 61 million," said Doherty.

To move this volume profitably, the apple growers hope to put a network of joint promotions with retailers into place, he said. Prize drawings, demonstration programs and coloring contests are just a few elements designed to get consumers purchasing more apples.

Advertising in additional markets and on the retail level is another method the Commission plans to employ to boost consumption. To fund this expense the board is posing to growers that an additional 15 cents per box increase be added to the assessment. Funds collected will be targeted at direct consumer advertising, Doherty said. Growers will vote on this proposal in August.

"To increase consumption in one year, everybody has to pitch in. There will be plenty to talk about," said Doherty. "We are expecting, besides a plentiful supply, superior quality of fruit."

This year's bumper crop comes on the heels of last fall's light crop. Doherty said the crop resurgence is in part due to the fact that the trees were able to rest for one year.

The excellent winter conditions of warmer weather and plenty of rain brought by El Nino to the Eastern Washington growing region is another aid to the crop coming on early and plentiful. "Because of the damage El Nino has done in the past year to many crops, the one bright spot to offer consumers will start with the apple category," said Doherty.

Continued inroads into new acreage have also expanded production, Doherty said.