264 million lbs of Michigan cherries expected in 2018

By their very nature, most farmers are thrilled and take pride of high-yield predictions.

According to the latest USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) production forecast, Michigan tart cherry producers should be very proud.

Michigan’s 2018 tart cherry production forecast is 264 million pounds, 60 percent larger than the 2017 June cherry production forecast. The state’s 2018 sweet cherry production is also predicted to be up 27 percent from last year.

The NASS report predicts Michigan’s 2018 tart cherry production will reach 264 million pounds. That’s a whopping 60 percent larger than the 2017 June cherry production forecast.

Despite reports of delayed bud burst due to cooler-than-normal April temperatures, high temperatures in May promoted a quick bloom period, and no major damage has been reported thus far from weather, insects, or disease.

But offsetting the good news of a larger-than-expected crop comes the sobering realization that, because of trade issues that have plagued the cherry industry for several years, more fruit is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to prices producers receive for the fruit of their labor, according to Michigan Farm Bureau Horticulture Specialist, Kevin Robson.

“Michigan is home to 75 percent of the nation’s cherry farmers, and this year we’re looking at a good-sized crop,” said Robson. “Even though Michigan producers dodged a frost event this year, and have a good quality and sized crop out in the orchards at the moment, many growers are less than optimistic for the 2018 marketing season.

According to Robson, while the trade-related economic downturn for major row-crop commodities, such as corn, soybeans and wheat due to NAFTA and the Chinese tariff battle is a relatively new phenomenon, global trade challenges have hindered the cherry industry for a number of years.

“Our cherry growers in Michigan are some of the hardest working, diligent and relentlessly optimistic farmers I know,” said Robson. “But there’s no doubt it’s an economic struggle in the cherry industry right now.”

Michigan cherry producers have worked relentlessly behind the scenes with multiple legislators in D.C., and their staff, along with U.S. trade officials, and USDA, to address some of the issues affecting their industry said Robson, to address global trade practices that allow highly subsidized tart cherry production from other countries to be dumped on the global market, far below the cost of production here in Michigan.

“Michigan cherry producers are hopeful that relief is on the horizon, and that their efforts will lead to market-access for our first-handlers to sell their inventory into the world market at competitive, but profitable prices to handle the large 2018 crop,” Robson said.

Michigan’s 2018 sweet cherry harvest is forecast is 23,900 tons. This would be a 27 percent increase from the 2017 June cherry production forecast, despite the slower development due to cooler April temperatures.

USDA’s NASS is predicting an overall 48 percent increase in U.S. tart cherry production nationwide, with a forecast of 353 million pounds. Total U.S. sweet cherry production, however, is predicted to be down 26 percent at 319,900 tons, citing weather-related production losses in Washington, Oregon, and California.

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