An apple a day? Prices, production volumes vary by cultivar
From sweet and juicy to tart and crisp, apples grown in the United States vary with a wide range of characteristics. Prices received by apple producers reflect consumer preferences for these varied attributes, as well as production-related factors, including volume harvested, cultivation methods, and storability. In the State of Washington, where two-thirds of all U.S. apples are grown, price and production data for more than 20 different apple varieties are collected and published by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. The iconic Red Delicious apple led production among varieties in Washington in the 2018/19 marketing year. This variety alone accounted for more than 29 million 40-pound boxes, or 25 percent of Washington State’s apple production for both domestic and international use. Red Delicious apples are usually harvested with a single pass through the orchard and are the easiest and least expensive variety for growers to harvest. In 2018/19, the price of a 40-pound box was $17.65, among the lowest of all varieties surveyed. Over the last two decades, varieties including Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp have gained popularity among consumers. Honeycrisp apples are prized for their firm flesh and balance of both sweet and tart flavors—making them a popular snacking apple. Growing consumer demand has helped to elevate Honeycrisp production to more than 12 million 40-pound boxes in 2018/19 and supports both a retail- and farm-price premium. In 2018/19 Honeycrisp was Washington’s highest priced apple at $53.39 for a 40-pound box. Farm prices for Honeycrisp apples are higher, in part, because of elevated labor costs associated with harvest. Because this cultivar does not uniformly ripen, up to five passes through the orchard are required to harvest a crop of Honeycrisp apples. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s “Supplement to Adjusting to Higher Labor Costs in Selected U.S. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industries: Case Studies,” August 2022.
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