Any time an area produces a heavy crop, being able to move it becomes a concern. Growers in Michigan with a near record crop this year, however, seem to look forward to the marketing opportunities that lay ahead.


“With a large crop, like this year, it’s nothing to get panicked about,” said Barry Winkel, general manager of Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Benton Harbor, Mich.


“We can go a few weeks later in the spring, which a lot of customers like anyway. In the growing community there’s probably concern about bulk boxes and storage space, but we’ve been through this before and we’ve always worked through it.”


Winkel hopes the state’s apple industry will be able to maintain a healthy market this year.


“Just simply because we have a big crop, we don’t have to panic and lower the price,” Winkel said.


“Our industry really maintains a stable business even when the economy is down like it is. It’s not like a car—you still have to eat so many meals a day.”


Opportunities


Peaches have been at a good price, and apples should follow suit, Winkel said.


Growers agree, though, that there will have to be some hefty promotions to keep the apple crop moving, and there should be plenty of opportunities.


“As varieties come in, you try to promote to get them on the shelves,” said Roger Anthony, owner of Lake Michigan Growers Marketing LLC, Greenville.


The state as a whole is going to need a lot more promotions than a normal year, said Nick Osmulski, sales manager for North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich. Pricing is going to have to be more aggressive than the past few years, when the state had smaller crops, he said.


“With as large a crop as the whole nation has, we’ve got to be selling pretty rapidly from the start,” said Owen Glei, president and part owner of Glei’s Inc., Hillsdale, Mich.


“It’s not a year to sit on them and wait for the price to be right, not with as much fruit as there is in the nation.”


Keeping the pace up


Glei said everyone in the industry needs to maintain movement to handle the crop adequately. To do that, no one should do anything to slow movement, such as holding the price above a level retailers are willing to pay, he said.


“I’m not really worried,” said Tom Curtis, president of Belding-based Michigan Fresh Marketing.


“We’re going to have to be priced right to move the crop, but I’m confident we’ll promote.”


Of course, Curtis said, shippers won’t see prices like last year.


“I think we’re going to price this crop appropriately so we get demand early in the season and so that demand carries on,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, Mich.


Consumer-driven


Supply and demand will definitely dictate the market, said Pat Chase, sales and field representative for Jack Brown Produce Inc., Sparta, Mich.


“Things will settle out and desirable varieties will still get good demand,” Chase said.


Jack Brown Produce handles fruit for more than 60 growers in the state, Chase said.


Armock said if the industry prices at promotable levels to push the produce, the Michigan Apple Committee’s programs will step in to help pull the products through.


Promotions


Denise Donohue, executive director of the DeWitt-based committee, said its two merchandisers, Ken Meyer and Scott Hoerman, have been working overtime with retailers to set up promotions for this year’s apples.


“Being aware of the fact we were out of some markets last year, we knew we had to be very aggressive this year,” Donohue said.


“We’re looking at some chains we haven’t been in before, maybe because they’re smaller, and giving that a lot of focus.”