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    N.Y. Apple Growers Expect 'Vintage' Fall Crop

    FISHERS, N.Y. -- The New York Apple Association based here expects its annual crop to yield 25 million bushels for the fall harvest. Apples should be high in quality this year, with very good growing conditions throughout the state, growers reported.

    FISHERS, N.Y. -- The New York Apple Association based here expects its annual crop to yield 25 million bushels for the fall harvest. Apples should be high in quality this year, with very good growing conditions throughout the state, growers reported.

    "We're looking at a good solid crop, very similar to last year," said Ned Morgan, an apple grower from Marion, N.Y. and chairman of the New York Apple Association. "I will call it a 'vintage' year."

    "The quality is fantastic," said Robert Fix, a grower in Hudson, N.Y. "We're looking at abnormally large fruit size."

    Harvest timing is expected to be normal, with early varieties like Ginger Gold and Paula Red to be harvested beginning in three weeks. The harvest will begin in earnest in Sept. when McIntosh ripens. The harvest runs through November with more than 20 different commercial varieties to be picked, ranking New York's crop as the most diverse in the nation.

    New plantings of popular varieties are coming into production this season, meaning there should be more availability of "hot" apples like Honey Crisp, Gala and Fuji. The state crop of traditional varieties like McIntosh and Empire also looks promising, growers said.

    New York's crop prediction is one of the most optimistic in the nation, putting the state's packers and shippers into a strong competitive position. The leading apple producing area in the country, Washington State, has experienced significant crop loss this year due to extensive hail damage across the state. The Michigan crop, which rates number three behind NY, is also reduced because of early spring freezes.

    It is the fourth year in a row that growers will pick a big crop, continuing the rebound from the 2002 crop, which was the smallest in history. Last year's crop totaled 24.7 million bushels, according to the final tally by the New York Agricultural Statistics Service, a division of USDA.

    The state's most popular varieties are McIntosh, with 19 percent of New York's total production, and Empire with 11 percent of the state's total. Other major varieties, in descending order are Red Delicious, Rome, Cortland, and Idared.

    Breakdown of crop utilization is roughly 52 percent for fresh apples sold at retail; the other 48 percent of the crop is used for processing products such as applesauce, apple slices, cider and juice.

    Apple consumption is on the rise due to continued university research proving that apples can help fight cancer, lower cholesterol and help dieters lose weight. Apples are the third most popular fruit item in grocery store produce sections behind bananas and grapes.

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