Jun 21, 2007
Guesstimators Find Large Fruit Crop, Record Sweet Cherries

By Dick Lehnert and Matt Milkovich

The Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association held its 52nd annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate June 20, giving growers and packers an early look at the potential size of the nation’s fruit crop. A short summary: A good crop most places.

The next morning, USDA followed with its forecast of the nation’s sweet and tart cherry crops – finding a large crop of tarts and a record-breaking crop of sweet cherries.

Here are the numbers from both reports:

Apples

The size of the 2007 national apple crop was guesstimated at 226.7 million bushels, slightly larger than the five-year average of 223.3 million bushels, and its distribution across the major producing states is sticking close to historical averages as well.

Denise Yockey, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee, reported the national apple crop numbers.

Washington is by far the largest producer, with a crop guesstimated at 130 million bushels, up from the five-year average of 126.4 million, with about 92 million bushels expected to go to fresh market. There will be more Honeycrisp and more club apples in the mix this year, she said.

New York is No. 2 in production, expecting 26 million bushels this year, up from the five-year average of 24.1 million.

Michigan, at No. 3, was forecast as having 21.4 million bushels on the trees, up from its average of 18.2 million bushels.

Pennsylvania’s estimated production is 11 million bushels, up from its average of 10.5 million.

California, at 7 million bushels, is down from its average of 10.2 million, and Virginia’s production will be down 1 million bushels from its five-year average of 6.7 million bushels.

There will be fewer apples this year in smaller production states for which estimates were not given. Apple production was severely curtailed across the Midwestern states of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana by hard freezes at Easter.

The optimistic Michigan Apple Committee projection for Michigan production wasn’t shared by the four guesstimators from Michigan’s four production areas. They saw a total crop of only 18.8 million bushels, nearly 3 million fewer.

After a small crop last year, “northwest Michigan is back,” according to Dave Smeltzer with Per-Clin Orchards. Depending on the area, trees have two to four times as many apples this year, he said, guessing production at 3.4 million bushels. Northern Spy remains the largest variety for the area with 770,000 bushels expected, contributing 60 percent of Michigan’s Spy production.

Northwest Michigan is moving more toward the fresh market, he said, planting more Gala, Honeycrisp and JonaGold.

Michigan’s largest apple region is west central, encompassing orchards from Belding west across the Ridge near Sparta and going northwest across Oceana County. With 11.3 million bushels guesstimated by Pat Chase from Jack Brown Produce, the biggest variety remains Red Delicious at 2.5 million bushels. Golden Delicious at 1.5 million, Ida Reds at 1.4 million, Romes at 1.3 million and Jonathan at 810,000 bushels remain the other big varieties.

But the largest category in the area is “other,” Chase said, as growers shift more apples to fresh market and replace varieties – especially McIntosh “and anything with Mac blood” – to varieties like Gala, Fuji, JonaGold and Honeycrisp. Production in the “other” category has reached 2.4 million bushels.

Eastern Michigan will produce 1.2 million bushels, according to the guesstimate from Dave Smeltzer. Southwest Michigan will contribute 2.8 million bushels, 600,000 of that in Romes.

Peaches

The 2007 Guesstimate for Michigan’s processed clingstone peach crop is 7,200 tons, less than last year’s production of 7,350 tons but more than the three-year average of 7,138 tons, according to Alan Lound of Farm Fresh First.

Lound didn’t have an estimate for total U.S. production this year, but last year’s production was 394,630 tons, while the three-year average is 489,290 tons.

Blueberries

Michigan’s 2007 cultivated blueberry crop was estimated at 88 million pounds, with 25 million pounds going to fresh and 63 million pounds destined for the processed market. Total production in 2006 was 83 million pounds (29 million fresh and 54 million processed), while the five-year average is 71 million pounds, according to Shelly Hartmann of the Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee and president of the Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association.

Indiana’s estimate is 2.2 million pounds, less than last year’s total of 3.4 million pounds and down from the five-year average of 2.9 million pounds, Hartmann said.

She didn’t have an estimate for North America this year, but last year’s number was 350 million pounds, while the five-year average is 288 million pounds.

Sweet cherries

Michigan’s 2007 sweet cherry crop estimate is 48.5 million pounds, up from last year’s total of 42.9 million pounds and the five-year average of 35.5 million pounds. Of the 2007 total, 3 million pounds are destined for the fresh market, 4 million pounds will be canned, 12 million pounds frozen and 29.5 million pounds brined, according to Al Steimel of Leelanau Fruit Co.

The day after the Guesstimate, USDA released its forecast of national sweet cherry production.

It reported U.S. sweet cherry production at 317,000 tons, up 8 percent from 2006 and 27 percent above 2005. If realized, this will be the highest production on record.

The Washington crop forecast of 155,000 tons is unchanged from the June Crop Production report. The forecast is 9 percent below 2006 but 13 percent above production in 2005. If realized, this will be the second highest sweet cherry crop on record, according to USDA.

Eastern Washington experienced some damaging frosts in early spring, but growing conditions during June have been good. Fruit size and quality are expected to be very good.

Production in California is forecast at 92,000 tons, 119 percent higher than 2006 and 75 percent above 2005. The California forecast is carried forward from the June 1 forecast.

Favorable spring weather with no extended rain was ideal for pollination. Acreage increases and good-sized fruit have increased California’s sweet cherry production potential.

Oregon production is forecast at 40,000 tons, unchanged from the June Crop Production report. The forecast is 20 percent below 2006 but 40 percent above production in 2005. Many growers along the Columbia River and in the Willamette Valley experienced a damaging late frost.

USDA pegged Michigan’s crop at 26,000 tons, 21 percent above 2006 production but 4 percent lower than the 2005 crop. Michigan growers reported that sweet cherry crop potential is very good, but USDA saw a larger crop by 2,700 tons than the guesstimators did.
Idaho is expecting a sweet cherry crop of 2,000 tons, down 47 percent from last year but 18 percent higher than 2005. Idaho sweet cherry growers experienced several freezes during the bloom period, reducing the crop’s yield potential.

Utah production is expected to total 1,400 tons, down 22 percent from both 2006 and 2005. Cool temperatures were reported during bloom, hampering pollination and decreasing production potential.

New York production is forecast at 970 tons, 1 percent above the 2006 crop and 21 percent higher than 2005. Some growers in the Lake Ontario region reported spotty frost damage, but overall growers across New York are optimistic about this year’s sweet cherry crop, according to USDA.

Grapes

The 2007 estimate for Michigan’s Concord grape crop is 58,000 tons, much higher than last year’s total of 15,350 tons. The Niagara grape estimate is 24,000 tons, higher than last year’s total of 8,100 tons, according to Glenn Rogers of Honee Bear Canning Co. Michigan’s 2007 wine grape estimate is 4,250 tons.

Tart cherries

The guesstimated size of the nation’s tart cherry crop was 290 million pounds, just a fraction away from the official USDA forecast released the morning after the Guesstimate. USDA found 294 million pounds of cherries, 11 percent above 2006 production and 9 percent above production in 2005.

Michigan, the largest producing state, expects a crop of 230 million pounds, according to both estimates, up 21 percent from the 2006 crop and 11 percent above 2005. A severe freeze on April 7 and 8 destroyed the majority of the tart cherry flower buds in the southwest portion of the state, while there was less damage in west central Michigan.

Conditions in northwest Michigan were excellent during bloom and pollination, leading to high yield potential.

Eric MacLeod, Cherry Growers Inc., put the northwest Michigan crop at 160 million pounds, the largest crop since 2001. The west-central Michigan crop was guesstimated at 59 million pounds by Leo Steffens with Peterson Farms. The crop in southwest Michigan was put at 10.5 million pounds by Michael Schrom of Honee Bear Canning Co.

Washington expects to produce 18 million pounds of tart cherries in 2007, down 19 percent from 2006 but 9 percent higher than 2005, according to both estimates. Cool spring weather and damaging frosts caused problems during bloom and pollination, according to Mike Rowley with Northwest Tart Cherries.

Utah production is forecast at 16 million pounds, 43 percent below both 2006 and 2005 production. The decrease in production is the result of poor fruit set, with approximately two-thirds of the flowers reportedly failing to set, according to Chad Rowley with Payson Fruit Growers.

New York is expected to produce 13 million pounds of tart cherries, 25 percent higher than the 2006 crop and 73 percent above 2005, according to the USDA forecast. Tom Facer with Birdseye Foods reported 11 million at the Guesstimate. There was very little winter damage and Facer said the crop is the best in many years.

Wisconsin production is forecast at 11.7 million pounds, 160 percent above 2006 and 56 percent above 2005 production. Jim Seaquist from Seaquist Orchards reported 12 million and an “uneventful season.”

Pennsylvania expects to produce 3.2 million pounds, Facer said, but USDA reported 4.3 million pounds, 17 percent below 2006 but up 65 percent from 2005.

Oregon’s production was forecast at 800,000 pounds by USDA, down 76 percent from 2006 but 167 percent above production in 2005. A light set is expected due to rain and cold weather during bloom.




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