Get ready for apple pie, sauce and cider as 2011 is a great year for growing apples

The United States Department of Agriculture’s forecast is for Michigan growers to produce 1,050 million pounds of apples up 40% from the five year average and 78% from the 2010 harvest.

Michigan ranks third in the nation for apple production and apples are the state’s largest and most valuable fruit crop. Apple sales contribute $700-$900 million to the state’s annual economy. On average, Michigan growers produce 20 million bushels of apples each year. This year, favorable growing conditions will likely boost the state’s production to 26 million bushels, 40% higher than the five year average.

According to the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC), there are 900 family-operated commercial apple orchards in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. There are approximately 37,500 acres of land in commercial apple production in the state. The most prevalent variety grown continues to be Red Delicious, both in the state and the nation, however, Golden Delicious and Gala are also strong performers. Red Delicious and Gala are primarily fresh-market apples while Golden Delicious can be used in either fresh or processing markets.

Approximately 60% of the annual crop is processed into products such as fresh-cut slices for commercially prepared pies, cider (fresh and shelf-stable) and applesauce. The remaining 40% is sold ready to eat. October is the largest apple shipping month and in a report released November 2, the Michigan apple industry sold a record number of apples last month, shipping 1,326,639 cases of apples to break the 2009 all-time record by 28,000 cases.

Michigan apples are on the shelves of grocery stores, and many orchards and farmers markets are still welcoming visitors. You are encouraged to visit, buy and enjoy delicious and nutritious Michigan apples. For more apple facts and recipes visit the Michigan Apple Committee’s website.

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