2013 Cost Estimation
of Establishing a
Cider Apple Orchard in
WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION FACT SHEET • FS141E
Cider is fermented apple juice and is often called ‘hard
cider’ in the United States. However, worldwide, the term
‘cider’ is used most often to describe this fermented bever-
age and will also be the term used throughout this publi-
cation. The study results presented in this WSU fact sheet
can serve as a general guide for evaluating the feasibility of
establishing and producing cider apples in western Wash-
ington as of 2013. Specic assumptions were adopted for
use in this study, but these assumptions may not t every
situation since production costs and returns vary across
orchard operations, depending on the following factors:
• Capital, labor, and natural resources
• Crop yield
• Cultural practices
• Input prices
• Orchard size
• Cider apple prices
• Management skills
• Type and size of machinery and irrigation system
Cost estimations in this enterprise budget also vary
depending on the budget’s intended use. To avoid draw-
ing unwarranted conclusions for any particular orchard,
readers should closely examine the assumptions used in
this study, and adjust the data on costs and/or returns as
appropriate for their specic orchard operation.
Cider Apple Production in Washington
Common cider apple varieties grown in Washington
State include Kingston Black (photo shown above),
Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout, Dabinett, and Porter’s
Perfection, among others (Moulton et al. 2010). There
were an estimated 204 acres of cider apples produced
in Washington State in 2010 and 256 acres in 2011
(Northwest Agriculture Business Center informal survey
2013). Cider apples can be produced with fewer pesticide
inputs than dessert apples require since minor surface
blemishes are tolerated if yield and internal fruit quality
are not affected (Peck and Merwin 2008). Ciderapple
production in western Washington is not limited by
environmentally induced diseases (for example, scab),
which often limit fresh market apple production and yields
in this same region.
The volume of cider produced in the U.S. increased from
775,031 gallons in 2007 to 5.2 million gallons in 2012, a
nearly seven-fold increase, or a 54% increase on average for
each year during this six-year period. In Washington State,
the total volume of cider produced grew by 290% between
2007 and 2012, or 37% on average for each year during this
timeframe (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau 2013).
To date, the Northwest Cider Association’s membership
includes 43 commercial cideries (21 in Washington; 18 in
Oregon; 1 in Montana; and 3 in British Columbia, Canada)
and 9 cider apple orchards (7 in Washington; 1 in Oregon;
and 1 in Montana). Cider is well suited for small-scale
artisanal producers in western Washington who rely on
local markets. Twelve of the association’s member cideries
and 2 member orchards are located in western Washington
(Northwest Cider Association 2014).
One of the major challenges commercial cider makers
face, both in western Washington and at a national level,
is the limited availability of the specialized apple varieties
required for making quality cider. Cider apples are sorted
into four categories (Cider Advisory Committee 1956):
bittersweet – high in tannin, low in acid; bittersharp –
high in tannin, high in acid; sharp – low in tannin, high
in acid; and sweet – low in tannin, low in acid.
The bittersweet and bittersharp varieties are used to make
high quality, full-bodied ciders. Cider drinkers tend to
develop a more sophisticated palate that enables them to
appreciate the more complex avors of traditional ciders
(Merwin et al. 2008). When producing high quality cider,
several factors should be considered, including cider apple
varieties, fermentation procedures, and laboratory juice
analyses, among others. For more information on cider
apple production, including rootstock selection, pest man-
agement, harvest, and other cultural practices, see Hard
Cider Production and Orchard Management (Moulton et al.
As the production of cider continues to expand, the
demand for specialty cider apples will also expand (Mer-
winetal.2008). As such, growers will need reliable and
objective information on the costs of establishing and
producing apples for cider. This publication provides infor-
mation on the economic feasibility of establishing and
producing cider apples in western Washington, including
the cost of equipment, materials, supplies, and the labor
required to establish a producing cider apple orchard. It
also provides the price and yield levels needed to make
cider apple production a protable enterprise.
This fact sheet can be used to identify inputs, costs, and
yields that are considered typical of a well-managed cider
apple orchard in western Washington. This publication
does not represent any particular orchard operation and is
not intended to be a denitive guide to production prac-
tices. However, it does describe current industry trends
and can be helpful in estimating the physical and nan-
cial requirements associated with establishing a successful
Sources of Information
The data used in this study were gathered from a group of
experienced cider apple producers in western Washington
and supplemented with information provided by scientists
at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwest Research and Exten-
sion Center (NWREC). The production practices and input
requirements adopted by the participating producers form
the basis for the assumptions used to develop this enterprise
budget. Additionally, the data provided reect the crop yield
and application rates of inputs these area producers antici-
pate over an apple orchard’s life, based on the established
assumptions and if no unforeseen failures occur. Given that
many factors affect cider apple production costs and returns,
individual producers are encouraged to use the Excel Work-
book provided to estimate their own costs and returns.
This budget contains information on establishing and
producing apples for cider making and incorporates the
1. Post-production costs, such as extended storage,
juicing, transportation to cidery, and pomace dis-
posal are not included in this budget.
2. The size of the orchard operation used in this bud-
get is 10 acres, and it assumes one acre is dedicated
to roads, buildings, storage, etc., rather than to
fruit production. Therefore, the total productive
area for this orchard is 9 acres. Table 1 shows the
assumed specications for the cider apple orchard.
3. The cider produced will be hard cider.
4. The total value of bare agricultural land (includ-
ing water rights) is $13,500 per acre with annual
property taxes of $135 per acre.
5. The orchard is drip irrigated using city water.
6. Producers sell apples within 2 weeks of harvest.
Apples are stored at the farm in pole barns with no
7. The price received by cider apple producers is
$315/bin. This price is based on the median price
obtained by cider makers in western Washington
for locally grown cider apples.
8. Bins of cider apples weigh 900 pounds each.
9. Cultural tasks and harvest are done by hand.
10. Management is valued at $300 per acre.
11. Interest on investment is 5%.
Summary of Results
Table 2 shows the estimated annual cost and return for
growing cider apples in western Washington. Production
costs are split into variable costs and xed costs. Vari-
able costs include orchard operations, harvest activities,
materials, and maintenance and repairs. Fixed costs (costs
incurred whether cider apples are produced or not) include
depreciation on capital, interest, taxes, insurance, manage-
ment, and amortized establishment costs. Management is
treated as a xed cost rather than a variable cost because
management (like land) has been committed to the pro-
duction cycle of the crop.
This study assumes that cider apple trees achieve full
production in their fth year. Based on the given assump-
tions, the total production costs for cider apples during
full production are estimated at $12,920 per acre. Enter-
prise budget values given in Table 2 are based on the more
comprehensive cost data presented in Tables 3 through 5.
Table3 and Table 4 list the annual capital requirements
and the machinery and building requirements, respec-
tively. Interest and depreciation costs are listed in Tables 5
and6, respectively. Interest costs represent required return
on investments. These costs can be actual interest pay-
ments on funds borrowed to nance farm operations and
physical capital investments, or they can be an opportunity
cost, or a combination of the two.
All interest and amortized costs assume a 5% interest rate.
The amortized establishment costs assume a total produc-
tive orchard life of 25 years, which includes 4 years of
establishment and 21 years of full production. The amor-
tized establishment costs must be recaptured during the full
production years in order for an enterprise to be protable.
Depreciation costs (costs calculated based on loss of asset
value due to use, age, and/or obsolescence) are annual,
non-cash expenses that are calculated over an asset’s useful
life. Land and other xed capital costs are estimated based
on the entire 10-acre orchard operation. Cost estimates of
inputs related to direct production of cider apples are calcu-
lated on a per-acre basis for a total growing area of 9 acres
(see Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 of Excel workbook).
The estimated net returns (shown in Table 2) represent the
prots a producer may earn from investment in land and
management after all costs are subtracted, including any
labor the producer contributed to crop production. Break-
even net returns for different levels of cost recovery during
full production are presented in Table 7.
The rst breakeven return ($177/bin) is the amount required
to cover total variable costs. If the actual return received
is less than this amount, it will be unprotable to produce
cider apples. This is true even in the short run because the
increased costs of production are greater than the increased
returns. The second breakeven return ($185/bin) should
cover total cash costs, assuming no outstanding loans or
land rent. This breakeven return is the amount needed for
economical production in the short run.
The third breakeven return ($201/bin) is the amount
required to cover total cash costs and depreciation costs,
and must be realized to stay in business over the long run.
The nal breakeven return ($281/bin) is the total cost
breakeven return. It is only when this breakeven return is
received that the producer can recover all out-of-pocket
expenses, plus all opportunity costs. Not obtaining the
nal breakeven return means the producer will not receive
a return on capital contributions equal to what could have
been earned through an alternative investment. On the
other hand, receiving an actual return greater than the esti-
mated total cost breakeven return means that in addition
to covering all cash and opportunity costs, the producer
will receive a return for management and the risk assumed
in producing cider apples.
Crop yield and prices can vary from year to year. Therefore,
to be of use to potential investors, the assumptions under-
lying the estimates in this enterprise budget should be
carefully examined. This study assumed a production level
of 46 bins/acre during the mature production years (that is,
years 5 to 25). This level of production is what experienced
cider apple growers estimate to be an average based on this
study’s assumed production scenario and given annual
crop yield variability (variability due to biennial bearing,
extreme temperatures, and pest infestation, among others).
To further help users evaluate potential production scenar-
ios, Table 8 illustrates likely per-acre net returns for a fully
established orchard given different price and yield levels.
It is important to note that WSU enterprise budgets are
economic budgets (not cash budgets), which means they
take into account not only cash costs but also opportunity
costs. Opportunity costs are dened as revenue foregone
by not investing in the next best alternative that carries a
similar nancial risk; for example, investing money in the
stock market, or paying off an outstanding loan. If produc-
ers do not include the opportunity costs when they calcu-
late their total cost breakeven return, they will be unable
to correctly assess the protability of farming relative to
alternative uses of their resources.
Furthermore, the key results provided in this enterprise
budget are based on production-related assumptions
established for this study. Production costs and returns for
individual producers may differ, thus the results cannot be
generalized to represent the entire population of producers.
However, an interactive Excel Workbook, described below,
is provided as a supplementary reference for this enterprise
An Excel spreadsheet version of this enterprise budget
(Table 2) is available on the WSU SES Extension web page
for crop enterprise budgets at http://extecon.wsu.edu/pag-
es/Enterprise_Budgets. Associated data underlying the per-
acre cost calculations shown in Tables 3 through 8 (which
can be found in the appendix tables on establishment
costs, full production costs, salvage value, and deprecia-
tion costs) are also available on this web page, along with
an amortization calculator. Select “apples” in the “Com-
modity” drop-down menu where the publication for cider
apples will be listed. Copies of both the manuscript and
the Excel Workbook are available here. Growers can modify
select values and thus use the Excel Workbook to evaluate
their own production costs and returns.
Additional Cider Research Information
Washington State is poised to become the leader in cider
research and production in the U.S., and WSU Mount Ver-
non NWREC has one of the most active cider research and
education programs in the country. The cider block at WSU
NWREC includes 58 unique cider apple varieties, making it
the largest U.S. research orchard for cider apples in terms of
number of different varieties. Figure 1 shows Brown Snout
apples grown at WSU NWREC, one of the most popular
cider apple varieties. This photo provides a view of the tree
architecture and crop load described in this budget. More
information about cider research at WSU and in the U.S.
can be found on the following website: http://extension.
Figure 1. Brown Snout variety is one of the cider apple
varieties grown at WSU NWREC.
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. 2013. Cider
Statistics CY 2007–2012. Washington, DC.
Cider Advisory Committee. 1956. Revised List of
Recommended Varieties of Cider.
Apples. In Cider Advisory Committee Report. Bristol, England:
Long Ashton Research Station.
Merwin, I.A., S. Valois, and O. Padilla-Zakour. 2008. Cider
Apples and Cider-Making Techniques in Europe and
North America. HortReviews 34: 365–414.
Moulton, G., C. Miles, J. King, and A. Zimmerman. 2010.
Hard Cider Production and Orchard Management.
Washington State University Extension Publication
Northwest Cider Association. 2014. Association Members.
Peck, G.M., and I.A. Merwin. 2008. Organic and Integrated
Fruit Production Systems for the Northeastern US
(Abstract) HortScience 43(4): 1111.
Table 1. Cider apple orchard specications.
Total cider apple orchard application 10 acres
Production area 9 acres
Cider apple variety Several varieties (e.g., Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout, Dabinett, Porter’s
Perfection, Vilberie, Foxwelp)
Root stock Dwarf—M9 series
Architecture Central leader system
In-row spacing 5 feet
Between row spacing 12 feet
Commercial life of planting 25 years
Tree density/acre 726 trees
Table 2. Cost and returns per acre of establishing and producing cider apples in western Washington.
Establishment Years Full Production
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Your Costs
Estimated Gross Production (bins/acre) 5.00 12.00 46.00
Estimated Price ($/bin) 315.00 315.00 315.00
Total Returns ($/acre) 1,575.00 3,780.00 14,490.00
Variable Costs ($/acre)
Soil Preparation 500.00
Trees (including labor) 5,263.50
Pruning & Training 288.00 720.00 1,080.00 1,440.00 1,260.00
Green Fruit Thinning 144.00 288.00 576.00 576.00
Irrigation Labor 480.00 480.00 480.00 480.00 480.00
Chemicals, 350.00 350.00 350.00 350.00 350.00
Fertilizer 60.00 60.00 60.00 248.00
Manual Pest Control 120.00 120.00 120.00 120.00 120.00
Beehive 50.00 50.00 50.00
General Farm Labor 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00
Irrigation/Electric Charge 144.00 144.00 144.00 144.00 144.00
Picking Labor 405.00 972.00 3,726.00
Maintenance and Repairs
Machinery Repair 50.00 75.00 100.00 120.00 140.00
Fuel & Lube 70.00 70.00 110.00 130.00 140.00
Irrigation System Maintenance 50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00
Other Variable Costs
Overhead (5% of VC) 374.78 119.65 170.85 233.60 373.20
Interest (5% of VC) 393.51 125.63 179.39 245.28 293.90
Total Variable Costs 8,263.79 2,638.28 3,767.24 5,150.88 8,131.10
Fixed Costs ($/acre)
Irrigation System 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Machinery, Equipment & Building 539.76 539.76 539.76 539.76 539.76
Trellis 90.51 90.51 90.51 90.51 90.51
Irrigation System 62.50 62.50 62.50 62.50 62.50
Land 675.00 675.00 675.00 675.00 675.00
Machinery, Equipment & Building 432.35 432.35 432.35 432.35 432.35
Trellis 56.57 56.57 56.57 56.57 56.57
Establishment Costs (5%) 545.27 836.54 1,120.06
Other Fixed Costs
Miscellaneous Supplies 200.00 200.00 200.00 200.00 200.00
Land & Property Taxes 135.00 135.00 135.00 135.00 135.00
Insurance Cost (all farm) 50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00
Management Cost 300.00 300.00 300.00 300.00 300.00
Amortized Establishment Costs 2,147.53
Total Fixed Costs 2,641.70 3,186.97 3,478.23 3,761.76 4,789.23
TOTAL COSTS 10,905 5,825 7,245 8,913 12,920
ESTIMATED NET RETURNS (10,905) (5,825) (5,670) (5,133) 1,570
Accumulated Establishment Costs 10,905.49 16,730.74 22,401.21 27,533.85
The full production year is representative of all the remaining years the orchard is in full production (Year 5 to Year 25).
Hand labor rate is $12/hour in Year 1 and $15/hour in subsequent years.
For pruning and training, hand labor rate is $12/hour in Year 1 and $15/hour in subsequent years. For green fruit thinning, hand labor rate is $12/hour. Labor rate includes all applicable taxes
Irrigation labor and chemical application are $12/hour and include all applicable taxes and benets.
Includes materials and labor.
Hand removal of pests, including tent caterpillars.
General farm labor rate is a lump sum per acre and applied to miscellaneous/all other labor. Rate includes applicable taxes and benets.
Hand labor. Picking rate = $60/bin.
Interest expense on full year during establishment years and for 3/4 of a year during full production.
Represents the costs incurred during the establishment years (minus revenues during those years) that must be recaptured during the full production years.
Table 3. Summary of annual capital requirements for a cider apple orchard operation (10 acres) in western Washington.
Establishment Years Full
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Annual Requirements ($)
Irrigation System 22,500
Machinery, Equipment & Building 153,940
Trellis System 20,366
Operating Expenses 80,539 29,910 40,070 52,523 79,345
Total Requirements ($) 389,845 29,910 40,070 52,523 79,345
Receipts ($) — — 14,175 34,020 130,410
Net Requirements ($) 389,845 29,910 25,895 18,503 (51,065)
The gross yield of cider apples from Year 3 to Full Production is 5 bins/ac, 12 bins/ac, and 46 bins/ac, respectively.
The full production year is representative of all the remaining years the orchard is in full production (Year 5 to Year 25).
Price received is assumed at $315/bin.
Table 4. Machinery, equipment, and building requirements for a cider apple orchard operation (10 acres) in western
Machine/Equipment/Building Size or Description
Market Value of Machinery/Equipment/Building
Total Cost ($)
Tractor 50 hp 1 25,000 25,000
Sprayer Air blast sprayer, 100 gal 1 4,500 4,500
Weed sprayer boom & tank 1 4,000 4,000
Mower, rotary 6 ft 1 3,500 3,500
Fork lift 5000 lb, gas-powered 1 22,000 22,000
Pickup truck 3/4 ton, 4 WD, extended cab 1 30,000 30,000
Bin trailer 8 ft x 16 ft 1 6,000 6,000
Ladders 8 ft unit 2 120 240
Fence 1 6,600 6,600
Bins Plastic, 900 lb 46 350 16,100
Shop tools, used 1 6,000 6,000
Machine shop/pole barn 1 30,000 30,000
Number of units correspond to the number of bins of cider apples during fall production.
Includes tools for equipment maintenance, trellis building, irrigation maintenance.
Includes pesticide storage.
Purchase price corresponds to new machinery, equipment, or building.
Table 5. Interest costs per acre for a cider apple orchard in western Washington.
Per Acre ($)
Irrigation System 22,500 0 9 563 62.50
Land 135,000 N/A 10 6,750 675.00
Machinery, Equipment & Building  153,940 19,000 10 4,324 432.35
Trellis 20,366 0 9 509 56.57
Interest Rate 5.0%
Interest Cost is calculated as: (Total Purchase Price + Salvage Value)/2 x Interest Rate.
N/A—Salvage value is not applicable to land because land is not a depreciable asset.
See Appendix 3 in the Excel workbook at http://extecon.wsu.edu/pages/Enterprise_Budgets for a detailed calculation of the salvage value.
The irrigation system and trellis system are used for the direct production of the fruit. Hence, their respective interest costs are divided by the
production area (9 acres) to get the interest cost per acre.
Total land area of the orchard operation is 10 acres and machinery, equipment, and building are used in the entire orchard. Thus, the corre-
sponding interest costs are divided by the total area (10 acres) to derive the interest cost per acre.
Table 6. Depreciation costs per acre for a cider apple orchard in western Washington.
Total Value Per
Acre ($) Years of Use
Per Acre ($/yr)
Irrigation System 22,500 9 2,500.00 25 100.00
Machinery, Equipment & Building 153,940 10 15,394.00 25 539.76
Trellis 20,366 9 2,262.87 25 90.51
The depreciation cost is calculated as straight line depreciation: (Total Purchase Price – Salvage Value)/Years of Use.
Table 7. Breakeven return ($/bin) at different levels of enterprise costs during full production in western Washington.
1. Total Variable Costs 8,131.10 176.76
2. Total Cash Costs 8,516.10 185.13
= Total Variable Costs + Land &
Property Taxes + Insurance Cost
+ Miscellaneous Supplies
3. Total Cash Costs + Depreciation
Costs 9,246.37 201.01
4. Total Cost
= Total Cash Costs +
Depreciation Costs + Interest
Costs + Management Cost 12,920.32 280.88
Assumed yield (bins/acre) = 46
Assumed price per bin = $315
Breakeven return is calculated as cost divided by yield.
If the return is below this level, cider apples are uneconomical to produce.
The second breakeven return allows the producer to stay in business in the short run.
The third breakeven return allows the producer to stay in business in the long run.
The fourth breakeven return is the total cost breakeven return. Only when this breakeven return is received can the grower recover all
out-of-pocket expenses plus opportunity costs.
By Suzette P. Galinato, Research Associate, IMPACT Center, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA; R. Karina Gallardo,
Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, School of Economic Sciences, Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, WSU Puyallup
Research and Extension Center, Puyallup, WA; and Carol A. Miles, Professor and Vegetable Extension Specialist, Department of Horticulture, WSU Mount
Vernon Northwest Research and Extension Center, Mount Vernon, WA.
Copyright 2014 Washington State University
WSU Extension bulletins contain material written and produced for public distribution. Alternate formats of our educational materials are available upon
request for persons with disabilities. Please contact Washington State University Extension for more information.
You may download copies of this and other publications from WSU Extension at http://pubs.wsu.edu.
Issued by Washington State University Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Extension
programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, and
national or ethnic origin; physical, mental, or sensory disability; marital status or sexual orientation; and status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence
of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension ofce. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is
intended. Published September 2014.
The authors wish to thank the WSU CSANR BIOAg Grant Program for funding this study. The authors also wish to thank
Gary Moulton, David Bauermeister, Drew Zimmerman, Jacky King, Gayle Sterrett, and Jonathan Roozen for their assis-
tance in gathering baseline information, and the WSU Extension Publication reviewers for their helpful comments. Assis-
tance provided by cider apple producers in developing the enterprise budget is also greatly appreciated.
Table 8. Estimated net returns ($) per acre at various prices and yields of cider apples during full production in western
300 320 340 360 380 400
20 -4,626 -4,226 -3,826 -3,426 -3,026 -2,626
25 -3,567 -3,067 -2,567 -2,067 -1,567 -1,067
30 -2,508 -1,908 -1,308 -708 -108 492
35 -1,450 -750 -50 650 1,350 2,050
40 -391 409 1,209 2,009 2,809 3,609
45 668 1,568 2,468 3,368 4,268 5,168
50 1,727 2,727 3,727 4,727 5,727 6,727
Shaded area denotes a prot based on the combination of yield and price.
Net returns take into account out-of-pocket expenses and opportunity costs.
Assumes a 900-pound bin.