Grower prices in the US for many fruit crops averaged lower than a year ago this summer due to increased production. Crops included are grapes, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, and lemons. According to a new report by the USDA's Economic Research Service, the grower price index for fruit and nuts in July and August 2000 averaged 8% below the July-August 1999 index. "Prices are likely to remain below a year ago through most of the second half of the year, as the anticipated slightly large apple crops this fall could lead to lower prices. Meanwhile, grower prices for pears and tree nuts are expected higher in 2000/2001 due to reduced production," USDA said.

The 2000 US apple crops is forecast up 1% from a year ago. "Ample supplies and slightly lower prices will likely improve both domestic and export demand for US apples, particularly in the fresh market sector," the USDA report said. Domestic consumption of fresh apples is forecast to increase 1% from the 18.7 pounds per person estimated in 1999.

US grape production for 2000 is forecast at 14.7 billion pounds, up 18% from a year ago and surpassing the previous record of 14.6 billion pounds in 1997. "A combination of increased production, lower prices and the good quality of this year's crop will help promote domestic consumption and US exports of fresh grapes." Domestic consumption of fresh grapes is forecast to increase about 7% from 1999's estimate of 8.2 pounds per person.

Overall stone fruit production (peaches, nectarines plums, prunes, apricots and cherries) in 2000 is expected to be up from a year ago due mainly to a larger US peach crop. Peaches make up about 70% of US stone fruit production.

The forecast for the 1999/2000 citrus crop increased 27% from the previous year under good growing conditions in both California and Florida. All citrus crops, except Florida tangelos, were larger. California citrus crops increased 59% over the freeze-damaged crop in 1998/99. "Florida's citrus production increased 22%. Dry conditions in late 1999 and throughout most of 2000 could affect the 2000/01 crop. The crop has been reported to be in good condition through the middle of the year with the aid of heavy irrigation," the USDA report said.