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Michigan sets new apple shipment record

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Michigan set a new weekly apple shipment record because of a large crop and good demand. It's good for growers after a dismal 2012, but is more competition for Washington apples.

Michigan apple industry set new shipment records two weeks in a row in October — with the second and highest week being 414,702 boxes the week ending Oct. 12.

Michigan and New York are experiencing bumper crops following severely reduced crops in 2012 from spring freezes.

“Our growers, packers and shippers are working seven days a week, day and night, to move this crop,” said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee in Lansing.

The previous record of 378,933 boxes in the second week of October in 2011 was broken by 411,973 the week ending Oct. 5 of this year and that was surpassed by the 414,702 a week later.

Washington shipped 2.4 million boxes of apples the week ending Oct. 12, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee, Wash. Washington’s record is 3.28 million for the week ending Dec. 9, 2012.

Michigan’s record could climb some more in the next few weeks, Smith said. October is typically the heaviest month of picking, packing and shipping.

Michigan apple harvest began in mid-August and is expected to finish on time Oct. 30 despite record volume and a 20 percent labor shortage, Smith said.

Labor, mainly migrant workers from California, has been getting tighter for a number of years and was even tighter this year because of almost no crop last year, Smith said.

The crop is still expected to reach 30 million boxes with more of it shifting to fresh than processing market as more fresh varieties like Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji have been planted, she said.

The 30 million boxes will be a new record or very close and it probably marks the start of a new, higher normal in crop size and shipments because of new plantings and increasing demand, Smith said.

Michigan is working to increase exports and domestic prices, while some lower, are good enough to keep growers happy, she said.

With 9.2 million apple trees in commercial production on 36,500 acres, Michigan is the third largest state in apple production, behind Washington and New York, and distributes apples to 26 states and 18 countries, Smith said. One of the largest fruit crops in the state, apples have an estimated annual impact of $700 million to $900 million on Michigan’s economy.

New York’s crop is estimated at 32 million boxes, fresh and processing.

Washington had a record 128.7-million-box fresh crop in 2012 at a farmgate value estimated at $3 billion. The crop was 151 million boxes when processed apples are added. Washington normally produces about 65 percent of the nation’s fresh apples.

Washington had shipped 13 million fresh boxes of 2013 crop by Oct. 12, compared with 14.6 million for the same period last year and 11.8 million the year before, Kelly said. So shipments remain strong despite more competition this year from Michigan and New York, he said.


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