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Swarms of birds and the price of Fuji apples

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  • Andy Stepniewski
    Yakkers (with copy to Tweeters), First thing this New Years morning Ellen and I noticed thousands of European Starlings swarming about a Fuji apple orchard
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2003
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      Yakkers (with copy to Tweeters),

      First thing this New Years morning Ellen and I noticed thousands of European
      Starlings swarming about a Fuji apple orchard several miles east of our
      home in Wapato. Specifically, this orchard is along the Yakima Valley
      Highway, reached by leaving I-82 at Exit 44, going north 1/3 mile to the old
      highway, then driving east a quarter mile. These birds were feasting on
      apples frozen hard in the cold snap of late October and early November. For
      four or five days, morning temperatures were in the single digits (4 degrees
      F one morning). All unpicked apples froze solid. On thawing, fruit from the
      coldest sites turned into juice bags, unfit even for juice concentrate, let
      alone processing, or the "fresh market." This particular orchard is now
      hosting thousands of birds. Besides starlings, we noted one Lewis's
      Woodpecker, five or so Northern Flickers, 10 Yellow-rumped Warblers, and
      substantial numbers of American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches.

      This freeze reduced the Washington Fuji crop by more than a quarter (in
      round numbers from from an August estimate of 12,000,000 cartons to about
      8,500,000). Simple economics would predict a rise in the price of Fujis. But
      this has not happened. Why? Several factors seem to have kept the market
      from rising. One is the consolidation in recent years in the number of
      retailers. A larger chunk of the buying power is in the hands of fewer
      supermarket buyers. This has tended to exert a downward pressure on the
      price of apples (and other products). Another factor has been the closed
      Taiwan market, a major buyer of Fujis. In November, Taiwan inspectors found
      live codling moth in a shipment of Fujis from Wenatchee, a major no-no, as
      Taiwan still doesn't have this pest and intends to keep it out. Taiwan shut
      off all imports of apples from the United States for more than a month. The
      result has been a stable Fuji market. Even though that market is now open
      again, the Taiwan press made this codling moth big news, continuing to
      depressing demand. During the month-long closure, Taiwan began purchasing
      huge supplies of Korean and Chinese Fujis, inferior, but much cheaper. Thus,
      American and Canadian consumers, and lots of birds, are now benefiting from
      this major insult on the Fuji apple market.

      So, go enjoy those Fujis!

      Cheers,

      Andy Stepniewski
      Wapato WA
      steppie@...
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