Growing apples for the cider industry in the US northern climate of Vermont: does the math add up?

F. Becot, T.L. Bradshaw, D. Conner
Sales of fermented apple cider have tripled in the US since 2007, with increases in both the quantity of cider sold by existing cideries and of new entrants in the cidery market. The cider market is differentiated between large national, mid-size regional, and small local producers. Industry characteristics in Vermont are similar to those of the national cider market and production is dominated by one large international cidery, followed by 17 smaller regional or local cideries. In total, over 1.9 million L of cider was produced by Vermont cideries from local or regionally-grown apples in 2015. Present levels of cider production and trends for future growth raise questions about apple growers' abilities to meet market demand. At the same time, new and expanding cideries are concerned about availability of apples. The Vermont apple industry is primarily oriented toward fresh fruit production, and prices received for marketable fresh fruit are several times greater than for cider fruit though recently the price received from the fresh market has decreased. Nevertheless, apple growers have expressed a guarded interest in growing apples for cideries but there are unknown variables such as the yield of cider-specific cultivars, availability of cider cultivars from nurseries, management practices unique to cider cultivars, and orchard establishment cost. In the immediate future, growers are more interested in diverting apples sold for the fresh market to the cider market. To inform management decisions, we used data from four Vermont orchards who currently grow for the fresh market to calculate current cost of production and to model cost of production under varying management scenarios such as reduced use of chemicals and harvesting labor. We then conducted a net present value analysis to analyze the profitability potential of various management scenarios and various apple markets.
Becot, F., Bradshaw, T.L. and Conner, D. (2018). Growing apples for the cider industry in the US northern climate of Vermont: does the math add up?. Acta Hortic. 1205, 461-468
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1205.56
Malus × domestica, cost of production, apple prices, hard cider, net present value, profitability

Acta Horticulturae