October 2009 could wind up being the biggest-volume month the Michigan apple industry has ever had.

During one week of the month Michigan growers shipped more apples than during any month in the industry’s history. In another week, they shipped as many as they had during that week in 29 years, said Denise Donohue, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee.

The week ending Oct. 11, 372,000 cases of apples shipped from Michigan, an all-time record for any week of any year, Donohue said. The week ending Oct. 24, 321,000 cases shipped, the most for that time of year since 1980. October is the state’s biggest-volume month.

“We’re all feeling fairly positive that this will be our biggest October ever,” she said.

The October bumper crop comes on the heels of a September in which Michigan shipped 990,000 cases, its best September in a decade.

With a shortage of apple boxes, growers have been forced to get creative, using celery boxes and other receptacles to make sure all their fruit gets packed, Donohue said.

While a record October seems likely, Donohue is not yet willing to say that 2009-10 will be the industry’s biggest season ever. Based on the latest estimate, the Wolverine State is on pace to ship 27 million bushels this season, 40% above its 5-year average.

The huge crop has meant that some regions are getting Michigan apples much sooner than they normally would, Donohue said. For instance, it’s often December before fruit reaches grocery stores in the Kansas City area, Donohue said. This season, Michigan apples were on some KC shelves by mid-October.

On the whole, prices for Michigan apples have been lower than last year at the same time but are still in the “normal range” of the past three or four years, Donohue said.

There was still considerable price volatility in late October, she said. By November, the industry expects prices to stabilize at a level “typical” of the last three to five years.