SweeTango apples. ( Photo courtesy All Fresh GPS )

Bloom was about 10 days late and harvest could be about four or five days late for Michigan apples, but early signs point to a full crop.

A cool and wet spring delayed bloom for apple orchards, said Diane Smith, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee.

“There has been no frost during the bloom, so our apple quality should be really clean,” she said. 

What’s more, bee activity during pollination was supported by warmer temperatures, she said.

“At this point, we’re expecting a full crop,” she said, noting that trees have lots of leaf growth and will generate energy to support a big crop.

Last year, the Michigan apple crop totalled about 24 million bushels, down from early season projections of 27 million bushels or more.

Smith said the Michigan fresh apple crop typically ranges from 10 million to 14 million bushels, with the balance of the crop used for processing. The 2018 crop was about 10 million to 11 million cartons fresh, Smith said. 

This year, Michigan growers expect bigger volume, both for fresh and processed markets, she said.

One exception could be the Honeycrisp variety, where growers are seeing a somewhat lighter crop compared with a year ago. Smith said the dip in Honeycrisp output is thought to be a common thread in Eastern and Midwestern growing regions this year. 

“I just talked to somebody from New York yesterday, and they were having the same issue (with Honeycrisp),” she said. 

Overall, there will be plenty of fresh apples from Michigan for the 2019-20 marketing season.

“All signs at this (point) point towards a bigger crop for sure,” she said. 

While early varieties will begin harvest in August, gala harvest typically starts about Sept. 1. This year, Michigan’s gala harvest could start Sept. 5 or so, she said.

“Summer (temperatures) plays a big factor in that,” she said, noting that harvest target date could change.

The lifting of tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum — followed by Mexico’s removed of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. apples — was welcome news for Michigan apple growers, Smith said.

The “main angst” of Michigan growers has been related to trade issues, she said. 

“We do want Washington to have that ability to export as many apples as they can so they’re not coming into the domestic market,” Smith said. 

Mexico’s lifting of its tariffs on apples was a great step and lifts hopes for the season.

Approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is important as well, she said, to preserve tariff free access to the Mexican market.


Marketing Michigan 

The market reach of Michigan apples — and the Michigan Apple Committee — continues to expand, she said.

The committee added Marty Head and John Woodall as account managers in the past year and both have helped extend the marketing and promotion efforts of the committee, she said. 

Retailers from 32 states worked with the committee on promotion activities for Michigan apples in the 2018-19 season, up from about 28 states the previous season.

“We’ve definitely expanded into some different markets, and we’ve (had) quite a good push into the Northeast,” Smith said. This year, the committee will continue to push and get into as many markets as it can, perhaps expanding efforts in the southern U.S.

“We had a lot more participation from retailers this past year, which was great,” she said. “Anytime we can get Michigan apples in the ads, in the produce department in a different way, it is good for our industry,” Smith said.