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New York apple growers geared up for a second fabulous crop

"We convened on a conference call with our members across the state on July 25," Julia Stewart, spokesperson for the New York Apple Association headquartered in Fishers, NY, told The Produce News. They forecasted then that crop would be 30 million bushels, just slightly above our average of 29.5 million but not as high as our 2013 crop which was estimated at 32 million."

Stewart added that this season's crop could get even larger as the apples tend to get bigger when the weather is as great as New York's has been throughout this growing season.

"We have indeed had another fabulous year of growing conditions," she emphasized. "The spring weather conditions were perfect for pollinating, and we've had just the right amount of rain. Lots of sunny days and cooler nights that apples love have also blessed our crop. It's looking like a textbook crop at this point, and that will give us great crops for two-years running, for which we are extremely grateful."

mcintosh 300-web A New York-grown Mcintosh apple. (Photo courtesy of New York Apple Association)Stewart also explained that because of new plantings in New York, consumers will have an abundant supply of their favorite New York apples, from Honeycrisp to Galas and even the state's homegrown McIntosh, among many others.

Exports from New York growers are down due to the European Union's decision last spring to ban apples from import that are treated with the pesticide, diphenylamine, also called DPA. Further research is ongoing on this issue.

"Our export business is only about 10 percent of our crop, so that is not a significant issue for us," said Stewart. "We continue to examine our options and continually look for new markets. Exports are a beautiful thing in general because they help to relieve the pressure from the domestic market."

Although she clearly states that no one is a soothsayer when it comes to apple crop projections, she does believe that the national crop will be big for no other reason than no area has reported having bad weather.

"We did have a late bloom in New York due to the cold winter and cool spring, but thanks to the great summer we're now right on schedule," she pointed out.

One of the major issues that apple growers -- as well as just about every other fresh fruit and vegetable producers -- are faced with today is the critical labor shortage. Stewart stressed that it is getting harder and harder every year to find an adequate labor force.

"As our crop size increases, the problem just worsens," she said. "Something must be done about this problem in our country. Unfortunately, what Congress looks at as a political issue is a business survival issue to produce professionals, their families and their staffs of all levels. We rely on workers to bring in our crops.

"Immigration reform is absolutely critical for our industry," she continued. "Consumers have the right to expect safe food that is grown in sustainable ways. American producers are forced to do this, and then we have to compete with countries that do not have these restrictions. We cannot possibly continue to compete in such a market."

New York's good news is that harvest was underway statewide on August 15. Stewart said that growers will continue to pick apples until the first snowfalls or in early November, wrapping up with the McIntosh.

On the public relations front, the NYAA is again strong in its media outreach initiatives.

"Our consumer media outreach program is an aggressive one," said Stewart. "The goal that remains in the forefront is to put New York apples at the very top of consumers' minds from the very start of our harvest and throughout the rest of the year."

The NYAA's new website,, provides virtually everything that anyone -- consumers and the trade alike -- would want to know about New York apples. Visitors will find apple history, varieties and their suggested uses, a plethora of fabulous recipes, nutritional information and much more.

"We asked consumers what they wanted available on our website and we put it all right up front to give them easy access to it," said Stewart. "The home page has a locator map where consumers can enter a zip code and find a pick-your-own or farmers market nearby. Information on all of our varieties, including heirloom apples, is on the site, and all of the information is searchable in numerous ways. We are also asking consumers to send recipes and photos for us to post, which is really helping us to build buzz for the site."

The NYAA's consulting dietician, Linda Quinn, is booking appearances on morning and daytime television shows to talk about the crop and the nutritional benefits of apples. She will also appear at the New York State Fair Aug. 21-Sept. 1.

NYAA also supports numerous fundraisers and special events every year. One of its fundraisers using apples and apple cider raises money for cancer research in the state. It is also one of the sponsors of the ING New York Marathon in November every year, and it hands an apple to every person who reaches the finish line.

"And we are certainly out there strong spreading the buy local message in New York and surround states," said Stewart. "New York grows more apples than any state east of the Mississippi River, and our goal is to get people to eat more of them."


Del Monte announces 'Fresh Fan Fuel' social media promotion

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. will be hosting the “Fresh Fan Fuel” social media promotion to encourage healthy and fresh choices for fall games and tailgates. The promotion will give Del Monte fans the opportunity to win one of eight tailgating prize packages, just in time for football season.


When visiting the Fresh Fan Fuel website, consumers will be prompted to upload a photo that represents a healthy tailgating or game-day experience. Consumers will invite friends on Facebook to vote for their submitted photo to increase their chances at winning the grand prize. Users will also be encouraged to use the hashtag “#freshfanfuel” on their Twitter and Instagram posts to share their submission and promotion.

“The Fresh Fan Fuel promotion is intended to encourage consumers to choose healthier alternatives for their tailgates or football parties,” said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing North America for Del Monte. “Del Monte products can play multiple roles at a tailgate. Our delicious Guac can be served as a dip with veggies or as a condiment. Easy to serve fresh cut fruit and veggie trays are great alternatives to chips or cookies. And our whole produce items such as our famous Del Monte Gold® pineapple, bananas, and avocados can be thrown on the grill for a delicious treat.”

The Ultimate Fan Package (the grand prize package) will consist of $100.00 to purchase Del Monte fresh products, two tickets to a regular football season game of the winner’s choice, a television professional football package, fan gear, a portable gas grill, a cooler, two tailgating chairs, a bag toss game, and a professional football. Runner-up and weekly prizes comprised of various tailgating items will also be distributed to lucky participants.

The four-week Fresh Fan Fuel promotion begins Aug. 18 and ends Sept. 12.

For more information about Del Monte’s Fresh Fan Fuel, contact your local Del Monte Fresh Produce representative or visit to enter.


Sbrocco International sponsors 2014 JCC Maccabi Games

CHERRY HILL, NJ — Sbrocco International Inc. was a sponsor of the just-completed 2014 JCC Maccabi Games in the Cherry Hill, NJ, host community.

"It's always been important to Sbrocco to give back to our local community, and the Maccabi Games are especially rewarding since we share a common mission to encourage the health and well-being of our youth," Christina Regan, marketing manager of Sbrocco International, said in a press release.

sbrocco3South Jersey athletes Jed Friedman (left) and Josh Rivkind (right) enjoyed fresh apples with Christina Regan, marketing manager of Sbrocco International Inc., at the 2014 Maccabi Games. (Photo courtesy of Sbrocco International)The JCC Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style sporting competition held each summer in multiple sites throughout North America. It is the world's largest organized sports program for Jewish teenagers, bringing together over 5,000 athletes from around the globe, the release noted.

This year Sbrocco International, a premier importer of fresh produce based here, donated apples which were served with lunch and as a snack to Maccabi athletes and coaches, who voiced an appreciation for having a fresh, healthy and great-tasting food option available.

Brian Adler, development director of the Jewish Community Center, said in the release, "On behalf of the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games and over 5,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers and staff, we are truly grateful for all of the support from Sbrocco International, and for assisting us in maintaining healthy and balanced lunch and snack options for our participants and supporters."

The 2014 JCC Maccabi Games were held Aug. 10-15 in the host communities of Cherry Hill, NJ; Boca Raton, FL; and Detroit.

California Giant announces executive director for blueberry division

To facilitate growth and expansion in the blueberry market, California Giant Berry Farms has promoted Nader Musleh to executive director-blueberry division.

Musleh will take on full responsibility for the profitability of the company-wide blueberry and non-strawberry division, working with senior management to develop the strategy and vision necessary to grow the business both domestically and internationally.   

NMuslehweb Musleh plans to expand the geographical reach to continue to build the year-round supply of berries to meet sales needs and increase market share. He will manage the existing Bush Berry sales team, including Jerry Connery the bush berry category manager and Evan Pence, blueberry operations manager for North America.

“I will be moving my family here in January and even though it is a big change for all of us, we are excited about the new opportunity ahead and I look forward to expanding our berry program,” Musleh said. 

Previously, Musleh was based in Chile and served as the general manager for the company’s South American operations. He has relocated to the corporate offices in Watsonville, CA, effective August 12.

“Nader has proven to be a leader in the development of the company’s blueberry program," said Bill Moncovich, president and chief executive officer. "We understand this is a big move for him and his family and are very pleased he will take a larger leadership role within the company as we take this program to the next level."

Musleh has been with California Giant Berry Farms for four years. He is married to Susan and has a 3-year-old daughter, Isabella.


Michigan apple industry expecting second consecutive huge crop

Michigan’s apple growers appear to be hitting consecutive grand slams.

The 2013 crop was one of the largest fresh-market apple crops that Michigan has seen. According to USDA figures released July 11, 2014, the 2013 Michigan apple crop was 30 million bushels. Of that, 29.7 million were harvested.

The Michigan industry’s early and unofficial estimates indicate 2014 apple volume may be as big.

What makes this especially interesting is that in 2012 Mother Nature gave back after vicious freezes decimated apple buds throughout Michigan. The 2012 crop was Michigan’s smallest since 1944.

This summer, “the weather has been good and we’ve gained ground. We were behind early,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee in Lansing, MI.  She said that a June meeting of the Premier Cooperative Apple Forum estimated a 28 million-bushel apple crop for Michigan in 2014.

Smith said the 2013 Michigan apple storage crop wrapped up at the end of July 2014. “Nothing is left. We had great movement. The trade worked hard” to sell the huge crop.

John Schaefer Jr., president of Jack Brown Produce Inc., added that the 2013 crop was so well received by buyers that it ended earlier than normal for some shippers, despite the crop size. “There was very good acceptance by the trade. We look to keep it going this year.”

At Belleharvest Sales Inc., based in Belding, MI, Chris Sandwick, vice president of sales and marketing indicated, “Coming off a previous season of not having any fruit, last season was a wonderful year. This season will be the same (as 2013). Maybe there will be more apples,” Sandwick noted. “It has been a long time” since Michigan had two consecutive huge apple crops.”

Showing more caution is Roger Kropf, the owner of Core Farms LLC, located in Hartford, MI. Kropf acknowledged that some in Michigan’s apple industry expect 100 percent of last year’s crop, but Kropf expects and 80 to 85 percent of the huge 2013 crop.

“It’s back to a normal crop,” this year, he projected.

“Last year was estimated to be between 28 and 30 million bushels.” This year’s crop should be about 24 million, which is a normal-sized large apple crop for Michigan. Kropf is preparing for a big crop at Core Farms. He is adding to help on his sales desk and “getting extra field quality control people.”

Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., based in Sparta, released a statement in August indicating, “Summer weather has been idyllic, although sometimes a bit on the cool side, which is good for apples. Rainfall has been regular, meaning sizing has been excellent. We continue to anticipate a very clean (Michigan total) crop that will be in the neighborhood of 30-32 million bushels.”

Riveridge offered the following 2014 Michigan apple harvest start dates. Paula Red was expected to begin in the range of Aug. 22-25. Ginger Gold harvest should begin about Aug. 29-Sept. 1. Gala and Golden Delicious are both expected to come into the market around Sept. 17-20. These will immediately be followed by McIntosh and Jonamac.

The highly anticipated Honeycrisp harvest is expected in the range of Sept. 25-27. Less popular varieties will enter the market before the harvest of Red Delicious, Jonagold and Rome around Oct. 2-7.

Ida Red, Braeburn, Blondee and Cameo are expected by Riveridge to arrive on the market in late October.

Schaefer said, “This year we’ve had cool weather and lots of moisture, so there is no stress on the crop.” Thus, Schaefer, whose firm Jack Brown is located in Sparta, MI, anticipated an excellent Michigan apple crop for 2014.

The Michigan Apple Committee’s Smith said Michigan’s early volume apple harvest will be Paula Reds in the third week of August. “Gala and Macs will start in early September. And then, we’re off and running. Everything looks good in size and quality.”