Virginia's apple crop has been cut in half this year because spring and winter reversed roles, creating losses for growers but probably not raising prices for consumers.

Unseasonably warm weather in January brought out apple blossoms that later were killed by spring freezes, paring the harvest to about 210 million pounds this fall, down from 325 million in 1989 and 425 million in 1988, farmers and agriculture officials said.

"It was just a terrible year, and we never got going after the weather hit us," said Kevin Harding of the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service.

But because of a bountiful apple crop in the state of Washington, the shortage of Virginia apples isn't expected to translate into higher prices in local supermarkets.

"It's not likely we are going to be seeing the price of apples go sky high," said Jack Rollins, a government fruit specialist in Frederick County. "But when you have a couple of poor crops in a row, it can have a serious impact on {farmers'} income."

Farmers stand to lose $10 million in apple sales this year. In 1989, the crop's value fell to $32.6 million from $46.2 million in 1988.

Virginia's apple industry is centered in the Shenandoah Valley, in counties stretching from Frederick, which leads the state in production, to Clarke, Warren, Augusta and Rockingham. Seventy percent of the state's apples are grown in this area.

In Maryland, the outlook is about the same. In 1989, growers harvested 37 million pounds of apples, down from 52 million pounds in 1988. This year, the state agricultural statistics office estimates a crop of 30 million pounds.

The 1989 crop's cash value for Maryland growers was $4.1 million, nearly $2 million less than the $6.3 million crop in 1988.

While most Maryland counties, including Montgomery, Howard and Prince George's, have some apple production, the majority of the state's crop is grown in Washington, Cecil and Hartford counties, officials said.

Officials expect a good crop from Washington state to keep apples plentiful and prices down.

"Some growers have better crops than others, and the short crop in the East will not affect prices because of the western crops," said John Robinson, an apple grower and president of the Frederick County Fruit Growers' Association.

Robinson grows 500 to 600 acres of apples each year, and sells most of his apples to processors who use the fruit to make cider, applesauce and other apple products.

According to Rollins, 60 percent of the apples grown in Virginia are sold to processors, and the loss of some of that income to the area has agriculture officials worried.

"Most of our processors know what they need, and pretty soon they'll know what to expect out of this area," Rollins said. "Then, they will go outside the area to get what they need."

Growers also are concerned that the prospect of a small, late crop may lead some harvest workers to go elsewhere.

Traditionally, the apple harvest begins on Labor Day. In Frederick County this year, farmers don't expect to begin until at least Sept. 10.

"The workers who are really good at harvesting, the ones who really help farmers, may move on since we're not even starting until a week late," said C.B. Ashby, who works for the Frederick County association and finds housing for the migrant workers.