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Washington apple harvest to see reductions from wind, wildfire smoke

Washington supplies about two-thirds of the nation’s fresh apples — but the state’s apple harvest is looking at a 5-10% reduction this year because of impacts from recent high winds and wildfire smoke.

In addition to knocking trees onto power lines and starting fires throughout the state, an extreme Labor Day weekend windstorm in Central Washington had a detrimental impact on apples.

“The main weather event that had the largest impact has actually been the windstorm that occurred — gusts of wind actually knocked fruit off of the trees, so there was a reduction in the estimated crop volume that we had for the 2020-2021 season,” said Toni Lynn Adams, communications specialist for the Washington Apple Commission, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Washington apples.

She explained that apples that are knocked off trees are unable to be harvested and sold.

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The smoke — some of it from the fires that the windstorm started — has also impacted the harvest because some orchards have had to keep workers inside during prime apple-picking time.

“The intense smoke in the air has caused a couple of delays in certain locations, or kind of just slowed down the pace of harvest,” Adams said. “As fruit is maturing on the tree, there’s kind of a window of opportunity to harvest that fruit, so it has really complicated the harvest process.”

Earlier this summer, it was predicted that this year’s apple harvest would see 134 million 40-pound boxes of apples, but these complications will likely result in it being closer to the state’s five-year average of 128 million boxes.

So far, the Washington Apple Commission is not aware of any apple orchards being burned in the fires.

Adams said that it is too soon to tell what kind of a financial hit this reduction might mean for the state’s orchards, but she said consumers can rest assured that they will still be able to find their favorite Galas and Honeycrisps at grocery stores and produce stands this fall.

“There’s going to be a good supply, and suppliers are working really hard to get products out to consumers in a timely manner as we’re getting things harvested, and keep up with demand,” she said. “We’re progressing and working through these challenges, so consumers can continue to depend on Washington to make sure they get their apples.”

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