Apple industry stabilization
Ott believes the industry has stabilized in recent years, saying, “There are no longer the dramatic surges.”
He thinks it has found its niche as an earlier supplier of fresh fruit and “those that are in are in [after some recent trying years], and those that are out are out.”
“It won’t be a 10-million box market as it was in the early 1990s,” Ott said.
He would like to see production year-to-year ranging between 3 and 4.5 million cartons.
Apples are grown from as far south as San Diego to as far north as Ukiah. Most of the crop is grown from Sacramento south to Kern County.
The Apple Commission, like some other marketing orders, has focused in recent years on research, pests and diseases and – in Ott’s words – providing “a unified industry voice.” It has turned away from generic promotion.
In addition, Ott wears other hats besides being executive director for the Apple Commission. He also manages the 3-month-old California Blueberry Commission, a state marketing order, and the California Olive Commission, a federal marketing order.
Ott said that’s a way of saving money because he is able to speak out at meetings, for example, where the different commodity boards face common issues, such as pest and disease concerns, trade issues and market access.
“If there’s a problem, for example, with an issue with Mexico, I can speak for three commodity groups,” he said. “It saves in travel and staff and on rent, and we’re careful to keep everything separate with three separate boards of directors.”
For a time, Ott also managed the California Kiwifruit Commission as it reorganized following an audit.