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FARM SCENE: Red Delicious Crop Late, Higher Prices Expected

September 26, 1996

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) _ The harvest of Red Delicious apples is beginning in Washington state with expectations of smaller but top-quality fruit and higher prices.

The average price so far this year is $18.80 for a 42-pound box, compared with $17.50 a year ago, said Kirk Mayer, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearinghouse in Wenatchee.

Cool weather is helping red apples develop excellent color, but isn’t doing much to increase fruit size, industry officials said.

``A lot of the fruit is not ever going to size up,″ said Peter Verbrugge of Valley Fruit in Wapato.

This year’s official crop estimate for Washington apples of all varieties is 94.5 million 42-pound boxes, the largest on record. Red Delicious is by far the most plentiful type, with an estimate of 59 million boxes.

But smaller fruit means a smaller crop, since it takes more apples to fill a box.

Smaller apples also sell for less than larger ones. But smaller apples generally have longer storage life, and many export markets prefer smaller sizes, Mayer said.

In addition, apple-producing states in the East and Midwest are expecting smaller-than-normal harvests.

Western states are expected to ship 14 percent more apples than last year, while New York, the No. 2 apple producer after Washington, is expecting a 15 percent drop, and Michigan, the No. 3 state, is forecasting a 31 percent decline.

``I think it’ll be a good year, from every indication,″ Mayer said.

The main concern now is the lateness of the harvest, which could run into bad weather.

``If the weather starts getting rainy, windy and cold, I think you could see a big crunch for pickers,″ said Terry Kelson, field representative for Inland Fruit & Produce Co.

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BOSTON (AP) _ Massachusetts is about to reclaim from Wisconsin the position of the nation’s No. 1 cranberry producer.

Massachusetts growers expect to harvest 1.97 million barrels of cranberries this year after an unusually wet summer. Wisconsin, which topped the Bay State in cranberry production last year, expects to harvest about 1.89 million barrels, according to the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service.

Massachusetts growers were hurt last year by a drought.

But the U.S. Agriculture Department said this year’s Massachusetts crop will come close to the state’s record berry harvest in 1991. Growers said it could exceed the 1991 crop.

``It could be the largest harvest in Massachusetts history,″ Michael Eatough, a spokesman for Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, told The Patriot Ledger of Quincy.

Nationally, the cranberry harvest is expected to be the largest ever.

This summer’s heavy rainfall contributed to the projected 24 percent increase in production.

The cranberry, which is Massachusetts’ official fruit and its largest agricultural crop, supports about 5,500 jobs and contributes more than $200 million to the state’s economy.

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