Fruit growers and processors met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 24 to take an early shot at guessing the size of the some of the nation’s 2015 fruit crops.
The numbers were presented at the 60th annual Fruit Crop Guesstimate organized by the 14 processor members of the Michigan Frozen Fruit Packers Association.
The presenters gave a detailed account of Michigan’s expected apple production, breaking it down into four regions and listing production variety by variety. They estimated the size of the Michigan crop at 22.5 million bushels, only slightly smaller than the 2014 crop of 23.8 million bushels. The new crop will include an estimated 1.3 million bushels of Honeycrisp.
While no numbers were developed for other production areas, New York’s Premier Apple Cooperative made an estimate a day earlier, according to Diane Smith, the executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. Premier, she said, estimated Washington production at 165 million bushels, New York production at 27.5 million bushels, and Michigan production at 24 million bushels, slightly larger than in 2014.
Premier made state-by-state production estimates and pegged the national apple crop at 259,478,000 bushels, 3.2 percent less than last year. Premier saw the Eastern crop at 53.8 million bushels, down 2 percent from last year; the Midwestern crop (which includes Michigan) up 5 percent at 29.5 million bushels; and the Western crop at 176.3 million bushels, with Washington contributing 165 million bushels, 5.3 percent less than last year.
Both the New York and Michigan crops are shortened than last year as a result of freezes May 20 in Michigan and May 23 in New York that occurred during full bloom. Odds of a freeze that late are less than 10 percent, and it cut hard into what had looked like bumper crops coming in Michigan for apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries, and blueberries.
Dave Smeltzer at Per-Clin Orchards near Onekama 50 miles south of Traverse City, pegged his area’s apple production at 2.2 million bushels, well down from its potential of more than 4 million. After the “penetrating cold,” he said, “the blossoms looked like a blow torch had hit them.”
In west central Michigan, where two-thirds of the state’s apples are grown, crop size was estimated at 16.5 million bushels, down from 20.6 million in last year’s big crop.
Don Gregory, an owner of Cherry Bay Orchards on the Leelanau Peninsula northwest of Traverse City, said it looked like a bumper crop of tart cherries was on the trees—perhaps 115 pounds per tree—but the “perfect inversion frost” on May 20 dropped temperatures as low as 20 degrees on some sites and cut crop potential to 47 pounds per tree.
Michigan’s tart cherry crop averages about 185 million pounds, which is about 70 percent of the nation’s total production. The crop for this year was put at 146.5 million pounds, with most of the reduction taking place in the six countries around Traverse City. Those counties will produce about 86 million pounds this year.
All told, the U.S. tart cherry crop this year was guesstimated at 230.5 million pounds, which will be down from about 270 million pounds last year.
Washington State’s crop was guesstimated at 25 million pounds, Utah’s at 35 million, Wisconsin’s at 9 million, New York’s at 10 million, Pennsylvania’s at 3.5 million, and Oregon’s at 1.5 million. Ontario, Canada, which also grows tart cherries, will have a crop of about 7 million pounds, having shared the freezes with Michigan and New York.
On June 25, the USDA made its forecast of tart cherry production, pegging the Michigan crop at 134 million pounds, 34 percent less than last year and considerably smaller than the Guesstimate number. USDA forecast the national tart cherry crop at 223 million pounds, down 23 percent from last year.
Michigan’s sweet cherry crop was greatly reduced by the late spring freeze. A normal crop is around 30,000 tons, mostly for processing. Mark Doherty at Peterson Farms estimated the state will produce 10,250 tons—500 for fresh sale, 500 for canning, 2,250 for freezing, and 7,500 for brining.
The USDA, on June 25, estimated the size of the national sweet cherry crop at 338.5 million tons, down 11 percent from 382 million tons last year. It pegged the Michigan crop at 15,900 tons, a 47 percent decline from its 2014 production.
Michigan’s blueberry crop, which totaled 97.1 million pounds in 2014, was also hurt by the May 20 freeze and was guesstimated at 85 million pounds for 2015, 46 million for fresh market and 39 million for processing. The report was presented by Creela Hamlin, the new president of the Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee.
Once the largest producer, Michigan’s production has been overtaken by Washington State, expected to produce 110 million pounds this year. British Columbia’s production was pegged at 162 million pounds, Oregon’s at 95 million, and California’s at 55 million.
In the eastern United States, production in Georgia was estimated at 78 million pounds, North Carolina at 55 million pounds, New Jersey at 57 million pounds, Florida at 25 million pounds, and Mississippi and Indiana at 2 million pounds each.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new harvest guesstimate figures at 12:30 on June 25, 2015.