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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.”