Jun 22, 2006
Some Areas See Crops Reduced by Weather

On the first day of summer, the Michigan Frozen Fruit Packers Association pulled together its members to evaluate the outlook for production of fruit crops, in Michigan and the nation.

About 150 people attended the 51st annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate held June 21 in the historic ballroom of the Pantlind Hotel in Grand Rapids.

Overall, it looks like a year with no wipeouts and no bumper crops, but as usual some areas suffer near disasters that will greatly impact local communities. Juice grapes in southwest Michigan and sweet cherries in northwest Michigan call for attention.

What follows is a summary of the numbers from the two-plus-hour presentation from nearly 20 presenters.

Apples

The Michigan apple crop is expected to be 17.64 million bushels, down from last year’s actual production of 18.8 million bushels. The estimate is lower than Michigan’s five-year average of 18.4 million bushels.

Pat Chase of Jack Brown Produce said two of the three growing areas in west central Michigan had good conditions this season. The Oceana/Mason area had some frost damage, and poor weather conditions affected the bloom. The season started early in most areas and was about a week ahead of schedule. Chase said the biggest question being asked by growers is about the availability of labor.

The west central estimate is 12 million bushels, down slightly from last year’s estimate of 12.87 million bushels. West central is the largest apple producer in the state, with the eastern region reporting 1.34 million bushels, the northwest estimating 1.35 million, and the southwest estimating 2.95 million.

The Red Delicious estimate (2.6 million bushels) was the highest in the state, although Chase said the Reds are down more than any other variety. Last year the Red Delicious estimate was 3.42 million bushels. The outlook could improve because of good weather conditions in June.

“If you ask most growers, the Reds look better today than they did three weeks ago,” Chase said.

Volumes of other varieties such as Fuji, Jonagold, Gala and Honeycrisp are increasing. Michigan is estimated to produce 2.77 million bushels of these varieties. Chase said Honeycrisp was the “rising star” in Michigan apple production.

The 2006 Washington apple estimate is 135 million bushels, about 95 million of which will go to the fresh market. Denise Yockey of the Michigan Apple Committee said about 20 million bushels of Washington apples were lost to hail this season.

New York’s apple estimate is 24 million bushels, down slightly from last year. The California estimate is 9 million bushels, less than the five-year average of 11.3 million. Pennsylvania is right on it’s five-year average with a 2006 estimate of 10 million. Virginia’s 2006 apple crop is estimated at 5 million, less than the five-year average of 6.9 million.

With some areas of the country affected by the weather, the 2006 national apple crop is estimated at 231 million bushels, which is still higher than the five-year average of 227 million.

Cherries

Late-season freezes in northwest Michigan has cut the area’s contribution to the nation’s cherry crop, but the devastation was greater to sweet cherries than to tart cherries.

The industry’s guesstimate for the national tart cherry crop is 246 million pounds, with 177 million coming from Michigan.

Eric MacLeod with Cherry Growers, Inc., estimated northwest Michigan’s output at 110 million pounds, just above the three-year average but about 85 percent of last year’s production. The area had a drought last year, poor pollinating conditions this spring and a hard freeze May 6 following the earlier-than-normal (May 3-5) bloom.

Leo Steffens from Peterson Farms said similar conditions reduced production in west central Michigan to an estimated 43 million pounds, down from 64 million last year. Southwest Michigan’s crop was estimated to be heavier this year, 24 million pounds compared to 15 million last year and a 19-million-pound five-year average. Mark Wilson from Birds Eye Foods presented that estimate.

Crops in other states were estimated as follows: Utah, 26 million pounds, down from 28 million last year; Washington, 23 million pounds, up from 16.5 million last year; New York, 9 million pounds, up from 7.5 million last year; Wisconsin, 4 million, down from 7.5 million last year; Pennsylvania, 3 million pounds, up from 2.3 million last year; and Oregon, 4 million, well up from 300,000 pounds last year.

Al Steimel from Leelanau Fruit said low temperatures of 23 degrees took out the sweet cherries from low-lying sites in northwest Michigan, leaving half a crop from brining and 40 percent of a crop for fresh market.

His breakdown for Michigan’s 25.1 million pounds of production: For brining, 17.8 million pounds, down from 35.6 million last year; for canning, 3.4 million pounds, down from 8.7 million last year; for freezing, 3.2 million pounds, down from 8.5 million last year; and for fresh market, 700,000 pounds, down from 1.2 million pounds last year.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its production estimates for tart and sweet cherries the following morning. NASS forecasts a national tart cherry crop of 255.7 million pounds, about 10 million more than the industry estimate. Almost all the “extra” is in Michigan, according to NASS, which pegged the number at 185 million pounds compared to 177 million by the industry.

The NASS figures for sweet cherries peg national production at 268,400 tons (536.8 million pounds), up 7 percent from last year. Michigan’s crop was forecast at 17,000 tons (34 million pounds), well above the industry’s estimate of 25.1 million pounds, but still 37 percent below last year’s production.

Blueberries

The national blueberry crop will be up again this year, and so will that of Michigan, the nation’s largest producer. Michigan is looking at a crop of 75 million pounds, 25 million for fresh market and 50 million for processing. The national crop was pegged at 319.2 million pounds, 170.2 million for fresh market and 149 million for processing.

National production last year was 302.1 million pounds, with Michigan contributing 66 million. The numbers were presented by Shelly Hartmann from True Blue Farms, president of the Michigan Frozen Foods Packers Assocation, filling in for Tony Kucharski of MBG Marketing, who compiled the figures.

By area, production for 2006 was estimated as follows:

The West, 131 million pounds, 64.5 million for fresh and 66.5 million for processing; the Midwest, 79.6 million pounds, 28.1 million for fresh and 51.5 for processing; the Northeast, 49.2 million pounds, 38.2 million for fresh market and 11 million for processing; and the South, 59.4 million pounds, 39.4 million for fresh and 20 million for processing.

Grapes

Michigan’s grapes were severely damaged by a May freeze. Glenn Rogers of Honee Bear Canning said it was the worst freeze since 1976, and production is reduced by 90 percent because of it. He said both wine grapes and juice grapes were damaged, but wine grapes survived the freeze better than juice grapes.

The 2006 Michigan estimate for Concord grapes is 19,000 tons. Last year, Michigan produced 65,000 tons of Concord grapes. The estimate for Michigan Niagara grapes is 7,500 tons, down from last year’s production of 26,000 tons.

Next year’s crop is anticipated to be reduced as well because of damage to the plants from the freeze. To end on a good note, he said there were new plantings going in despite the setbacks.

Peaches

Two freezes, one in April and one in May, will impact peach processors this year, Alan Lound of Birds Eye Foods said. Other than those two incidents, the weather in Michigan has been favorable for peaches. Some of the newer varieties are showing good results, although there has been some struggle across the state with the size of processing peaches. The estimate for 2006 is 8,000 tons, which Lound said is down slightly from last year.

Brambles

Paul Askier from Producer Marketing gave an estimate for blackberry and raspberry production in the West. He pegged raspberry production at 85 million pounds, down from 97.4 million last year, and blackberry production at 42 million pounds, down slightly from 43.6 million last year.





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