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The US state of Washington’s apple growers have hit back at accusations that they dumped millions of dollars worth of fruit after west coast port congestion restricted their ability to export.

In a perfect storm of a record crop needing to be exported just as labour disputes stifled activity at the ports, apples had to be dumped – as much as $95m worth, according to some reports.

But, speaking to the local Yakima Herald, Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said it was impossible to put a price on what had to be thrown away. Instead, the $95m tag was an estimate of lost sales caused by the lack of ability to export on time.

Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, told The UK Guardian that exporters lost about three weeks of the season owing to the port problems, which was exacerbated by a record supply.

Apples were loaded into unrefrigerated containers and forced to wait on the dockside. A lack of refrigerated facilities for the apple surplus also took its toll on exporters, who can normally store apples for months.

While many surplus apples can be processed into juice or sauce, prices were so low that they did not cover shipping costs, said Mr Fryhover. As a result, apples were dumped in fields.

Partly in response to the poor season, the Washington Apple Commission has decided to triple its financial reserves to $3m to hedge against potential risks.

The commission is due to spend $8.2m on overseas promotions, reported Capital Press, with Mexico due to receive $1.32m, India 1.27m, and China and Hong Kong receiving just under $1m.

China reopened its market to Washington Red Delicious apples last year and is now opening to all other US varieties. Mr Fryhover predicted about 2m boxes of Red Delicious and Gala varieties would go to China this year.

About one-third of the state’s apples are exported.


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