Many US shippers turning to Europe for the first time Washington influx soaring There have been massive increases in sales of Washington apples in Europe, and the UK in particular so far this season. According to trade sources the reason is a combination of the strength of sterling and bumper crop. Weaker demand in the Far East, with the expansion of Fuji grown in China, has also meant many US shippers have turned to Europe for the first time. Up to mid March, the EU imported 1.6 million cartons compared with only 517,000 cartons last year, says the Washington Apple Commission. The UK, which in 1998 had reached 238,000 cartons, now stands at 506,000 ctns. Because Washington fruit, particularly red apples, continue to sell well in the summer, final sales could top one million cartons said George Smith, European director. Currently prices for Washington Red Delicious on the wholesale market are between £10 and £11, while a limited volume of Braeburn is making a £2 premium. Smith added: " More fruit is being shipped in the 60 x 40 Eurotray, which allows it to be put straight into store," he said. "This means we get more retail space compared with fruit in traditional cartons usually presented as prepacks." Washington is also keen to develop organic apples. The Commission is compiling a register of growers for potential importers. Smith said there are now substantial supplies of more than a dozen different varieties available. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}