With good fruit crops coming back to the eastern United States after a disastrous year in 2012, fruit production nationwide should be somewhat better than average.
The U.S. apple crop is expected to come in at just under 251 million bushels, well up from 198.7 million last year and about 20 million bushels above average.
Fruit crop estimates were made during the 58th annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate June 19 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Michigan Frozen Food Packers Association and its 14 members sponsor the annual event, which draws processors and packers from across the country.
Last year, the association considered cancelling the event when it became clear that Michigan had virtually no fruit crop but then realized the Guesstimate has national significance, being an early look at fruit crop size in the United States. With the federal government out of the fruit statistics business because of sequestered funds, the Guesstimate takes on added significance.
MFFPA President Andy Janson, president of Hanson Logistics, said, “The mood is just the opposite of last year, with near perfect weather over the last six months.” He noted, too, that the eastern fruit industry had “utilized the downtime” to build new industry infrastructure and look for new business. “We are emerging stronger from the experience,” he said.
Large Michigan crop
Last year, Michigan produced only 2.7 million bushels of apples, a tenth of a normal crop. This year, the Guesstimate was for a crop of 26.3 million bushels, a number only surpassed once in the last eight years. Michigan’s crop has been highly variable for the last decade, but averages around 20 million bushels.
New York is also recovering from freezes in 2012. The crop for this year was estimated at 34 million bushels, more than double last year’s 16.9 million, and somewhat above a normal crop for New York.
Pennsylvania’s crop was estimated at 10.5 million bushels, down slightly from last year; Virginia was pegged at 6 million bushels; and California’s production was forecast at 8 million bushels, just slightly above normal.
Washington’s crop, which came in somewhere near 154 million bushels last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was estimated at 148 million for 2013.
All totaled, the six top producing states are expected to produce 232.8 million bushels, with 12 more states that produce apples adding another 18 million bushels. The U.S. average production for the last three years is 201 million bushels, so this is a big crop.
Terry Morrison, the executive secretary of the Michigan Frozen Food Processors, presented the national apple figures. Morrison is retiring this year.
Regional production in Michigan was put at 19 million bushels in the west central part of the state (estimated by Mark Zemaitis at Peterson Farms), 1 million bushels in eastern Michigan, and 3.3 million bushels in northwest Michigan (estimated by Dave Smeltzer at Per-Clin Orchards), and 3 million bushels in southwest Michigan (estimate by Phil Pitts at the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Association).
Zemaitis said that Michigan growers are reacting to new conditions by installing wind machines for frost protection and estimated that more than 100 new machines went in last year.
“Irrigation is becoming standard practice,” he said, as new plantings are high-density, using high-colored strains of the most desirable varieties—Gala, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, McIntosh, Idared, and Fuji.
“Things are looking very good,” he said.
Smeltzer noted that there was “a green bloom” this year, as the rested trees pushed flowers and leaves together and were a challenge to thin. Pitts said some growers had thinned four times. The June drop was just beginning.