Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

November 12, 2013

Strong recovery for fruit

TRAVERSE CITY — With the apple and winegrape harvest behind us, we take a moment to look to the future and ponder what 2014 might bring for agriculture in the Grand Traverse region.

First, we are coming off a good year for cherries and apples, and the vintages of our area’s 2013 wines appear to be off to a good start. With the crop loss of 2012, any fruit on our trees this year would have been a positive sign. However, both the tart and sweet cherry crops were of exceptional quality, partially due to a crop size that was neither too big nor too small, but also because of the cool temperatures during harvest. Growers did an excellent job of thinning apples this year, and despite the lack of rain this summer, apples sized well and developed nice color with the cool temperatures in early September. We hope to see this positive trend continue as we head into the next growing season.

In tree fruits, we can see a boom and bust kind of cycle. For instance, trees without fruit one year will store up energy and overproduce the following season. Growers employ good management strategies to break this cycle, and given the adequate crop load in most orchards this year, we can expect 2014 to bring a nicely-sized crop as well. So, if the weather cooperates, we predict trees will neither over- nor under-produce next season, and we will have a manageable tree fruit crop size for 2014. Of course, the key to my prediction is if the weather cooperates.

We are also looking to our marketers to do a bang up job this year and to continue to recapture markets in 2014. This important piece of the food chain is particularly critical for the next few years as marketers try to recapture pieces of the ‘pie’ that were lost to other countries or regions of the U.S. when Michigan lost its crop last year. For instance, tart cherry marketers had made great inroads into new markets with their promotion and health benefits research strategy; however, with the crop loss in 2012, some of the standing contracts were filled with cherries imported from Poland. We know our marketers will continue to do terrific job, but it will take more than just one season to put Michigan apples and cherries back into previous markets and products.

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