Washington's apple crop is predicted to increase by 4 percent this year over 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Nationally, apple growers are...

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WENATCHEE — Washington’s apple crop is predicted to increase by 4 percent this year over 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

Nationally, apple growers are estimated to harvest 9.17 billion pounds this year, up slightly from 2007, said Chris Messer of the USDA.

In Washington, where about 60 percent of the nation’s apples are grown, production is estimated at 5.4 billion pounds, up 4 percent from 2007, but down 3 percent from 2006.

Messer said most Washington orchards rebounded from the poor 2007 growing year.

“We had a hail storm that hurt us really bad two years ago,” said Joe Shelton, orchard manager at Broetje Orchards near Prescott, Walla Walla County.

There are a lot of apples on the trees and although they might be a little small right now, the harvest is eight to 10 days behind normal. Some hot days could help them catch up.

The delay won’t hurt the crop, but it could make it harder for growers to find pickers, Shelton said.

Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit in Selah, Yakima County, said its apples are also about a week late due to the late spring cold snap throughout the region. Picking won’t start for another six to eight weeks.

Wolter said the company’s pear crop also is slightly behind schedule, but looking good.

Overall, Bartlett pear production for Washington, California and Oregon is expected to be about 408,000 tons, according to Messer. That’s 7 percent higher than the USDA’s June forecast, but 4 percent lower than last year’s harvest.

Messer said bad weather during pollination and the late spring frosts hindered the crop.

Washington’s peach crop is expected to be 17,000 tons, compared with 18,500 tons last year — about an 8 percent drop.

Washington’s prune and plum harvest is expected to be about 4,800 tons, up 14 percent from 2007, but 11 percent below 2006. Messer said the increased yields are due to trees recovering from the poor 2007 growing season.

Messer also said Washington’s wine grape production is forecast to be 6 percent higher this year, reaching a record high of 135,000 tons.

The increase is mostly due to more acreage coming into production, he said.