2015 Cost Estimates of Establishing and Producing Specialty Cider Apples in Central Washington

2015 Cost Estimates of Establishing and Producing Specialty Cider Apples in Central Washington

Suzette Galinato, Research Associate, IMPACT Center, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, Carol Miles, Professor and Vegetable Extension Specialist, Department of Horticulture, WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Research and Extension Center, Mount Vernon, WA
If you’re thinking of producing cider apples in central Washington, this publication can be a very valuable resource. Designed to enable growers to estimate costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor as well as ranges of price and yield, this publication helps evaluate the feasibility and profitability of producing specialty cider apples.
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Cider is fermented apple juice and is often called “hard cider” in the US. However, worldwide, the term “cider” is used most often to describe this fermented beverage and will also be the term used throughout this publication. The results presented in this publication serve as a general guide for evaluating the economic feasibility of producing cider apples in central Washington as of 2015. This publication is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices, but it is helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings.

Specific budget assumptions were adopted for this study, but these assumptions may not fit every situation since production costs and returns vary across orchard operations depending on the following factors:

  • Capital, labor, and natural resources
  • Crop yield
  • Cultural practices
  • Input prices
  • Orchard size
  • Cider apple prices
  • Management skills
  • Type and size of machinery and irrigation system

Cost estimations in the enterprise budget also vary depending on the budget’s intended use. To avoid unwarranted conclusions for any particular orchard, readers must closely examine the assumptions made in this publication, and then adjust the costs, returns, or both as appropriate for their operation.

Cider Apple Production in Washington State

Cider apples can be produced with fewer pesticide inputs than dessert apples since minor surface blemishes are tolerated if yield and internal fruit quality are not compromised (Peck and Merwin 2008). Cider apples are grown throughout Washington. There were an estimated 204 acres of cider apples produced in Washington State in 2010 and 256 acres in 2011 (Northwest Agriculture Business Center 2013). The top cider apple varieties grown in the state are Ashmead’s Kernel, Brown Snout, Dabinett, Frequin Rouge, Harrison, Hewes Virginia Crab, Kingston Black, and Yarlington Mill (Miles et al. 2015). Examples of cider apple varieties that are grown in

central Washington include some of the aforementioned varieties as well as Foxwhelp and Porter’s Perfection (Table 1).

Study Objectives

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (various years), the production of cider in Washington State on which taxes were paid was approximately 56,600 gallons in 2008 and had risen to over 853,900 gallons by 2015—a 15-fold increase in 7 years and a 48% growth rate per year on average. As the production of cider continues to rapidly expand, the demand for specialty cider apples is expected to increase (Merwin et al. 2008). As such, growers will need reliable and objective information on the costs of establishing and producing apples for cider. This publication enables growers to estimate (1) the costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor required to establish and produce cider apples in central Washington, and (2) the ranges of price and yield at which cider apple production would be a profitable enterprise.

The primary use of this publication is in identifying inputs, costs, and yields considered to be typical of well-managed cider apple orchards in central Washington. This publication does not necessarily represent any particular orchard operation and is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices. However, it does describe current industry trends and can be helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements associated with establishing a profitable cider apple-producing operation.

Sources of Information

The data used in this study were gathered from two commercial apple growers, each with about 8 years of experience growing cider apples, and 10–35 acres of diverse cider apple cultivars in central Washington (Figure 1). Both growers are still experimenting and fine tuning their planting of cider apples; hence, there is no particular cultivar or mix of cultivars that can be definitely recommended for the region at the time of this study. The production practices and input requirements of the participating producers form the baseline assumptions that are used to develop this enterprise budget. In Table 1, examples of cider apple cultivars that can be produced in central Washington are listed. The production costs and returns presented in the enterprise budget is an average for the different cider apple cultivars planted.



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