CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia apple production jumped 36 percent in 2012 as a warm winter accelerated the growing season.
Growers harvested 91 million pounds of apples, compared to 24 million pounds in 2011. Nationally, apple production fell 4 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We had the largest crop we've ever had," Mark Orr, co-owner of George S. Orr & Sons Inc. orchard in Martinsburg, told the Charleston Daily Mail. "We had 517,000 bushels. The best year we'd had before that was something like 430,000."
Eastern Panhandle growers also escaped the damage that a late cold snap caused to apple crops in Michigan, New York and North Carolina. That helped to boost the average price for West Virginia apples from 8.3 cents per pound in 2011 to 25.8 cents.
"Last year, business-wise, was the best year we've ever had," Orr said.
"Maybe once out of 20 years you're the one with the good crop at the good price," Orr said.
Apples tend to grow in two-year cycles, he said.
"In 2011 we had a short crop, so naturally, without any frost damage, and under normal weather conditions, we were set to have a good crop [in 2012]," Orr said.
Eastern Panhandle growers also benefited from a decline in the stinkbug population. But a late-year rebound in the pest's population resulted in damage to Fuji, York and Granny Smith apples, all late-season varieties.
Orr expects prices to also be up in 2013 due to the other states' smaller crops last year.
"The canneries won't have a lot of inventory that's leftover," Orr said. "Their storage will be low, that should be beneficial to us as far as the prices for the next year."