Jun 28, 2022
Michigan tart cherry volumes return after two years

After two years of almost no crops, Michigan tart cherry producers expect higher yields in 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its National Agricultural Statistics Service, forecasted Michigan tart cherry yields in 2022 at 159.5 million pounds, up 65% from 2021 production.

Despite the projection, Oceana County fruit grower Michael DeRuiter worries about the state of the industry, with uncertain prices, labor headwinds and increased input costs, according to the Michigan Farm Bureau Federation.

“The last two years we haven’t had a crop,” DeRuiter, vice president of Michigan Farm Bureau’s board of directors, said in a Michigan Farm Bureau report on the cherry crop.

“It’s still not a record-breaking, bumper crop, but I think it just shows how low the cherry crop has been,” he said. “It just goes to show you that two-thirds or three-quarters of a crop is better when you compare it to where we’ve been the last two years.”

Previous freeze events and poor pollination resulted in short crops.

According to DeRuiter, the improved crop doesn’t necessarily mean better sales.

“The challenge is going to be more on the sales side because we never saw any of our issues resolved,” said DeRuiter, referring to the International Trade Commission case the industry lost in 2020. “It’s been quiet the last two years because we haven’t had a good crop. Now we are trying to push a normal crop through the system, so we will see.”

Increased prices for plastics and cardboard add to the long list of issues already affecting tart cherry producers. The Producer Price Index shows a 39% increase for the plastics industry since June 2020. Tart cherry producers use plastics and cardboard for their five-and-one and IQF packs.

DeRuiter said the sugar supply chain is experiencing challenges with longer lead times and price increases.

“The whole supply chain is a mess right now,” he said. “Everything is through the roof.”

DeRuiter said processors will decide how much they are going to pack.

“I don’t know a lot of guys who want to speculate with expensive inventory,” DeRuiter said. “When it’s cheap inventory, guys will speculate a little bit or maybe carry some (product) over to next year in case of a crop disaster. But when stuff is really expensive, you tend to tighten your belt and don’t over pack.”

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