Jun 19, 2008
Poor Weather Has Cut Size of Most U.S. Fruit Crops

By Dick Lehnert
Managing Editor

Crummy spring weather coast to coast has reduced the production for most fruit crops. The word “record” was used only once – for blueberries – during the 53rd annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate.

The Guesstimate, sponsored by the Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association and attended by more than 150 people from across North America, was held June 18 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Many of the presenters adjusted their PowerPoint presentations as they were making them, reflecting continuing poor weather. New York has hit by a hail storm of “epic proportions” on June 16, and the June drop, delayed and prolonged by cool weather that slowed crop development, was still taking apples and peaches from trees across the northern states.

For the first time ever, Wisconsin’s tart cherry crop was reduced to near zero – officially, 1 percent of normal.

Lots of cherries and apples have been marked by frost or hail. “It’s some of the worst looking fruit,” Phil Korson, who MCed the program, said of tart cherries from some frosted areas. Korson is at the Cherry Marketing Institute.

Blueberries

Last year’s blueberry crop was the largest ever, but the record lasted just a year, said Frank Bragg, MBG Marketing. He estimated the coming U.S. crop at 386.8 million pounds, up 8 percent from 356.8 million last year.

Michigan remains the top producing state and will have a record crop of 97.6 million pounds, up from 93 million last year and a five-year average of 78.2 million. Production in Michigan is growing, as it is elsewhere.

The West will produce 154 million pounds this year, the South 76 million, the Northeast 55 million and the Great Lakes area 101.3 million.

The cool spring and freezes left little evidence behind, Bragg said, except to move harvest dates back seven to 10 days in Michigan.

Apples

The Guesstimate always focuses heavily on the Michigan apple crop, with detailed estimates by region of the state and variety. But bottom line, Michigan’s crop will be smaller – 17.6 million bushels at the most. Drop and thinning effects were continuing.

Denise Yockey, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, gave the overall outlook: A national apple crop of 213 million bushels, down 8 percent from the five-year average of 229 million bushels.

The top six states look like this:

Washington, enduring cool, frosty weather and even snow, will produce an estimated 118 million bushels, down from its 130.7 million five-year average.

New York was anticipating a large crop of 29.5 million bushels, up from its average of 28.3 million, but the hail storm June 16 cut a 600-mile swath 50 miles wide from Niagara Falls to the Hudson Valley, and the damage was still being assessed.

Michigan, with a five-year production average of 19.1 million bushels, was pegged under 18 million – “and maybe only 16 million,” Yockey said.

California production was estimated at 8 million bushels, down from its 8.8 million average.

Pennsylvania, with production estimated at 10 million bushels, is down slightly from it’s 10.8 million average.

Virginia, with good weather, was pegged close to its average at 5.75 million bushels.

Tart cherries

Tart cherries always get good attention at the Guesstimate, since Michigan normally produces nearly three-fourths of the U.S. crop. It may again this year, since the crop size has been reduced in Utah and Wisconsin as well.

Overall, the crop size was pegged at 153.6 million pounds, well down from production last year of about 247 million pounds.

Michigan, which produced 193 million pounds last year, was guesstimated at 128.5 million this year, with the major production decline coming in the Traverse City area. Northwest Michigan production last year was 132 million pounds; the number for this year, 70 million.

Southwest Michigan, which lost half its crop to the Easter freezes last year, bounced back to 18.5 million pounds. The crop in the five counties in west central Michigan will be down to 40 million pounds this year from their three-year average of 55 million.

In other areas, New York’s crop was estimated at 8 million pounds, down from 10.2 last year. Pennsylvania is up to 3.6 million from 3 million last year. Utah, suffering from late freezes and a nasty cold snap after a warm day last winter, will harvest 12 million pounds, down from 17.6 million last year – and do it about July 20, the latest ever.

Washington’s crop is up from 11.5 million pounds last year, to 15 million. And Oregon’s crop jumped from 0.5 million last year to 2.5 million this year.

Wisconsin, producing 10.5 million pounds last year – even during a drought – is apparently still paying for the dry weather. The state’s output this year was estimated by producer Jim Seaquist at 150,000 pounds.

“The trees look good, but there are no cherries,” he said. “The buds didn’t push. There was no bloom.”

The cause is not known, but speculation centers on the very dry 2007 season and one low-temperature event on Jan. 29, when the temperature went from the low 40s to –7 in one day. There was also a late freeze during full bloom, but its effect was minimal since there were so few blossoms.

Other fruit

For other fruit crops, Michigan’s sweet cherry crop was estimated at 43.2 million pounds, small after freeze damage, and will be harvested late, in mid-July. Last year, the crop size was 54.6 million pounds. It was estimated that this year 28.3 million pounds would be brined, 12.3 million pounds frozen, 1.8 million pounds canned and 800,000 pounds sold fresh.

The size of Michigan’s crop of cling and freestone peaches was put at 16,500 tons, but June drop was still in progress. After a dry year last year, the crop is bigger – but still smaller than the three-year average.

Michigan’s grape crop, as reported by Glenn Rogers of Honee Bear Canning, was reduced by the spring freezes in southwest Michigan. The Concord crop was pegged at 40,000 tons, well down from 61,000 tons last year. The Niagara crop, likewise, is down to 15,000 tons this year from 33.500 tons last year. Washington, New York and Pennsylvania are all larger producers than Michigan, but their production was not included in the estimate.

Ontario fruit

Adrian Huisman, manager of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board, reported good crops for fresh market, except for sweet cherries. The peach estimate is 18,000 tons, up 16 percent: pears, 4,900 tons, up 81 percent; plums, 2,600 tons, up 136 percent; grapes, 2,600 tons, up 18 percent, and nectarines, 3,000 tons, the same as last year. Sweet cherries, at 500 tons, are down 17 percent.

On the processing side, tart cherries at 6,000 tons are down 25 percent, peaches at 3,000 tons are down 40 percent (in part because of the loss of processor CanGro) and apples, at 9.5 million bushels, are down 19 percent.

Berries

Paul Askier, with Naturipe Foods in Olympia, Wash., reported that the price of raspberries for juice has tripled from last year, and juice markets were driving prices of berries for fresh and processing. “Pricing is upside down,” he said.

Interest in fresh-market blackberries is rising fast.

This year, “the coldest spring in 20 years,” greatly reduced growers’ ability to establish new plantings. In the Northwest, blueberries are hot and growers are planting this berry at the expense of others.

The Guesstimate, sponsored by the Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association and attended by more than 150 people from across North America, was held June 18 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Many of the presenters adjusted their PowerPoint presentations as they were making them, reflecting continuing poor weather. New York has hit by a hail storm of “epic proportions” on June 16, and the June drop, delayed and prolonged by cool weather that slowed crop development, was still taking apples and peaches from trees across the northern states.

For the first time ever, Wisconsin’s tart cherry crop was reduced to near zero – officially, 1 percent of normal.

Lots of cherries and apples have been marked by frost or hail. “It’s some of the worst looking fruit,” Phil Korson, who MCed the program, said of tart cherries from some frosted areas. Korson is at the Cherry Marketing Institute.

Blueberries

Last year’s blueberry crop was the largest ever, but the record lasted just a year, said Frank Bragg, MBG Marketing. He estimated the coming U.S. crop at 386.8 million pounds, up 8 percent from 356.8 million last year.

Michigan remains the top producing state and will have a record crop of 97.6 million pounds, up from 93 million last year and a five-year average of 78.2 million. Production in Michigan is growing, as it is elsewhere.

The West will produce 154 million pounds this year, the South 76 million, the Northeast 55 million and the Great Lakes area 101.3 million.

The cool spring and freezes left little evidence behind, Bragg said, except to move harvest dates back seven to 10 days in Michigan.

Apples

The Guesstimate always focuses heavily on the Michigan apple crop, with detailed estimates by region of the state and variety. But bottom line, Michigan’s crop will be smaller – 17.6 million bushels at the most. Drop and thinning effects were continuing.

Denise Yockey, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, gave the overall outlook: A national apple crop of 213 million bushels, down 8 percent from the five-year average of 229 million bushels.

The top six states look like this:

Washington, enduring cool, frosty weather and even snow, will produce an estimated 118 million bushels, down from its 130.7 million five-year average.

New York was anticipating a large crop of 29.5 million bushels, up from its average of 28.3 million, but the hail storm June 16 cut a 600-mile swath 50 miles wide from Niagara Falls to the Hudson Valley, and the damage was still being assessed.

Michigan, with a five-year production average of 19.1 million bushels, was pegged under 18 million – “and maybe only 16 million,” Yockey said.

California production was estimated at 8 million bushels, down from its 8.8 million average.

Pennsylvania, with production estimated at 10 million bushels, is down slightly from it’s 10.8 million average.

Virginia, with good weather, was pegged close to its average at 5.75 million bushels.

Tart cherries

Tart cherries always get good attention at the Guesstimate, since Michigan normally produces nearly three-fourths of the U.S. crop. It may again this year, since the crop size has been reduced in Utah and Wisconsin as well.

Overall, the crop size was pegged at 153.6 million pounds, well down from production last year of about 247 million pounds.

Michigan, which produced 193 million pounds last year, was guesstimated at 128.5 million this year, with the major production decline coming in the Traverse City area. Northwest Michigan production last year was 132 million pounds; the number for this year, 70 million.

Southwest Michigan, which lost half its crop to the Easter freezes last year, bounced back to 18.5 million pounds. The crop in the five counties in west central Michigan will be down to 40 million pounds this year from their three-year average of 55 million.

In other areas, New York’s crop was estimated at 8 million pounds, down from 10.2 last year. Pennsylvania is up to 3.6 million from 3 million last year. Utah, suffering from late freezes and a nasty cold snap after a warm day last winter, will harvest 12 million pounds, down from 17.6 million last year – and do it about July 20, the latest ever.

Washington’s crop is up from 11.5 million pounds last year, to 15 million. And Oregon’s crop jumped from 0.5 million last year to 2.5 million this year.

Wisconsin, producing 10.5 million pounds last year – even during a drought – is apparently still paying for the dry weather. The state’s output this year was estimated by producer Jim Seaquist at 150,000 pounds.

“The trees look good, but there are no cherries,” he said. “The buds didn’t push. There was no bloom.”

The cause is not known, but speculation centers on the very dry 2007 season and one low-temperature event on Jan. 29, when the temperature went from the low 40s to –7 in one day. There was also a late freeze during full bloom, but its effect was minimal since there were so few blossoms.

Other fruit

For other fruit crops, Michigan’s sweet cherry crop was estimated at 43.2 million pounds, small after freeze damage, and will be harvested late, in mid-July. Last year, the crop size was 54.6 million pounds. It was estimated that this year 28.3 million pounds would be brined, 12.3 million pounds frozen, 1.8 million pounds canned and 800,000 pounds sold fresh.

The size of Michigan’s crop of cling and freestone peaches was put at 16,500 tons, but June drop was still in progress. After a dry year last year, the crop is bigger – but still smaller than the three-year average.

Michigan’s grape crop, as reported by Glenn Rogers of Honee Bear Canning, was reduced by the spring freezes in southwest Michigan. The Concord crop was pegged at 40,000 tons, well down from 61,000 tons last year. The Niagara crop, likewise, is down to 15,000 tons this year from 33.500 tons last year. Washington, New York and Pennsylvania are all larger producers than Michigan, but their production was not included in the estimate.

Ontario fruit

Adrian Huisman, manager of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board, reported good crops for fresh market, except for sweet cherries. The peach estimate is 18,000 tons, up 16 percent: pears, 4,900 tons, up 81 percent; plums, 2,600 tons, up 136 percent; grapes, 2,600 tons, up 18 percent, and nectarines, 3,000 tons, the same as last year. Sweet cherries, at 500 tons, are down 17 percent.

On the processing side, tart cherries at 6,000 tons are down 25 percent, peaches at 3,000 tons are down 40 percent (in part because of the loss of processor CanGro) and apples, at 9.5 million bushels, are down 19 percent.

Berries

Paul Askier, with Naturipe Foods in Olympia, Wash., reported that the price of raspberries for juice has tripled from last year, and juice markets were driving prices of berries for fresh and processing. “Pricing is upside down,” he said.

Interest in fresh-market blackberries is rising fast.

This year, “the coldest spring in 20 years,” greatly reduced growers’ ability to establish new plantings. In the Northwest, blueberries are hot and growers are planting this berry at the expense of others.





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