SPARTA, Mich. — With a large volume crop expected, exports should play a huge role in the marketing of the 2013 Michigan apple crop.
Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc., expects a bigger percentage of the company’s shipments this season to go to export markets.
The company attends produce conventions around the world in an effort to boost exports, Armock said.
“We’re trying to build (programs) in the Far East, Middle East, Central American, the Caribbean, certain countries of South America,” he said.
This year Riveridge expects to have more fruit that is tailored specifically for export markets. The company, for instance, will pack more of an elongated type of red delicious that are popular in certain export markets.
Riveridge also will have more of a particular size and grade of empire apple that a customer in Singapore prefers.
There should be plenty of small galas and other varieties that other export markets prefer, Armock said.
So much of the success of export sales depends on currency rates, said John Schaefer, president of Jack Brown Produce Inc., and as of early August, the signs were good for 2013-14.
With a big crop this season, Jack Brown expects strong movement to traditional export partners in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, Schaefer said.
Growing middle classes in other parts of the world should lead to increased exports of Michigan apples to places like India and the Middle East, Schaefer said.
Red delicious is a traditional big seller because of its iconic color, but galas and other varieties are also on the upswing in export markets, Schaefer said.
With Michigan growers scrambling to get apples to their domestic customers last season, exports were next to nothing, a fact that should bode well for the upcoming season, said Mitch Brinks, Jack Brown salesman.
“A lot are waiting to get back in,” he said. “There will be more demand for exports.”
Brazil is a big target for export growth for Michigan apple shippers, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Apple Committee.
Smith went to Brazil in March as part of a Michigan Department of Agriculture delegation.
“Our apples in Michigan lend themselves to what Brazilians want,” she said. “They like smaller, sweeter apples.”
Michigan also enjoys some shipping advantages that could make the state more attractive to Brazilian importers, Smith said.
The Caribbean and Central America, meanwhile, remain steady markets for Michigan apples, and India, Russia and southeast Asia have a lot of potential, Smith said.
The industry also continues to work on expanding trade in Mexico.
“Mexico could be a great market if we can work through” lingering concerns regarding phytosanitary requirements, Smith said.
“We have one more year of grant money to work on that.”
Exports have never been part of Belding-based All Fresh GPS LLC’s marketing plans in the past, but a big Michigan crop and strong worldwide demand could change that, said Tom Curtis, the company’s president.
“We’d had a lot of inquiries. We’ll be looking, for sure.”