Aug 1, 2013
Guesstimate: Fruit crops back to normal in 2013

By late spring 2012, freeze events had done so much damage to Michigan fruit that organizers briefly considered canceling that year’s Fruit Crop Guesstimate – the annual meeting held to estimate the size of Michigan’s, and the nation’s, coming fruit crops.

There was no talk of cancellation this year. The 2013 Fruit Crop Guesstimate was held June 19 in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the tone of the meeting was much more hopeful than 2012’s rather grim proceeding. The industry is “cautiously optimistic about a very strong fruit crop across all categories” this year, said Andy Janson, president of the Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association (MFFPA), which organizes the guesstimate.

Michigan’s fruit handlers found interesting ways to survive the massive crop losses of 2012. Some companies used the downtime to reset their operations. Others found ways to attract new business. Many will come back stronger from the experience, Janson said.

They’re getting help from the weather, which has been much more cooperative this year. A freeze event on Mother’s Day weekend did some damage across the state, but it was limited, according to speakers.


The guesstimate for the total U.S. apple crop in 2013 was about 250 million bushels. That’s much larger than the U.S. Apple Association’s estimate of last year’s crop, 202 million bushels, and its five-year average – about 224 million bushels.

The estimate for Michigan was 26 million bushels, much larger than the five-year average of 16 million.
West-central Michigan, the biggest contributor to the state’s apple crop, will yield 18.9 million bushels this year; followed by northwest Michigan (3.2 million); southwest (3 million); and east (1 million).

Since the disaster of 2012, Michigan growers are putting a much greater emphasis on frost protection. A lot of wind machines and frost fans are being erected. Also, more acres are being irrigated and plantings are getting denser, said Mark Zemaitis of Peterson Farms.

As for other states, Washington, the top producer by far, will yield about 148 million bushels in 2013. That won’t be as much as last year’s crop (154-159 million bushels), but Washington’s acreage is still trending upward. The state’s three-year average is 138 million bushels, according to Terry Morrison of MFFPA.

The guesstimate for New York state was 34 million bushels, up from its five-year average of 30 million; Pennsylvania will yield 10.5 million bushels, down from its five-year average of 11.2 million; California will produce 8 million bushels, up from its five-year average of 7.2 million; and Virginia will yield 6 million bushels, up from its five-year average of 5.2 million.


In 2013, the U.S. tart cherry industry will produce about 276 million pounds, up from the five-year average, which is roughly 221 million pounds.

After a horrid 2012, when it yielded an estimated 12.5 million pounds, Michigan will once again be the main contributor to the total U.S. crop this year, yielding 208.5 million pounds. That total also is much larger than the state’s three-year average – 110.2 million pounds.
Most of Michigan’s 2013 total, 125 million pounds, will come from the northwest portion of the state; 60 million from the west-central portion; and 23.5 million from the southwest.

As for other states, Utah will yield 25 million pounds of tart cherries this year; followed by Washington (20 million); Wisconsin (9.25 million); New York (9 million); Pennsylvania (2 million); and Oregon (2 million). In addition, Canada will yield about 12 million pounds of tart cherries, according to guesstimates.

In many ways, 2012 forever changed tart cherry markets. It’s up to U.S. producers to recapture the markets they once had, as well as develop future markets, said Phil Korson, director of the Cherry Marketing Institute.

As for sweet cherries, Michigan will yield 34.5 million pounds in 2013 (1.5 million pounds fresh, the rest processed), down slightly from its five-year average of 36.8 million pounds. Washington was expecting a sweet cherry crop of about 330 million pounds; Oregon about 112 million pounds; Idaho, Utah and Montana about 4 million pounds combined.


Blueberry plantings continue to expand. The Western Hemisphere can expect to produce about 1.3 billion pounds of blueberries in 2013 (nearly half of those sold fresh), up from an estimate of 1.1 billion pounds in 2012. The North American contribution could be about 950 million pounds this year, up from an estimate of 836 million pounds in 2012. The five-year average in 2012 was 452 million pounds, according to John Shelford, president of Shelford Associates.

Michigan, still the biggest U.S. producer, will yield 104 million pounds of cultivated blueberries this year (53 million fresh, 51 million processed). That’s larger than the state’s five-year average of 95.4 million pounds, and much larger than its 2012 total of 87 million pounds. The 2013 crop’s timing and quality were looking good, said Bob Carini of Carini Farms.


The 2013 estimate for the U.S. processed peach crop was 495,000 tons, larger than 2012’s crop of 475,100 tons but smaller than the three-year average of 516,587 tons, according to Leo Steffens of Peterson Farms.

Matt Milkovich

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