The Apple State is gearing up for its namesake crop's biggest time of the year, but apple growers in other parts of the country are not as ready this fall.
Unseasonably warm weather in the Midwest this past March caused fruit trees to bloom early. Mild winter temperatures left grounds unfrozen, then soared to 80 degrees. Trees reacted as if spring had arrived and began to bud. Once the peculiar temperatures dropped back down and frosts and freezes returned, many crops were killed off for the season. Michigan, supplier of 75 percent of the nations tart cherries and the third-largest supplier of apples, has been hit particularly hard.
Approximately $110 million has been lost in the apple industry this year because of the spring weather. The effects are being felt at every level of production. Farmers are devastated by the loss of crops. Seasonal workers hired to help bring in the harvest are having trouble finding work. Packaging plants aren't receiving the amounts they need to turn out their products.
Now that autumn has arrived, consumers will begin to see the effects of the losses more strongly. Apples are a staple crop in many areas this time of year. Pies, cider, candied and caramel apples are among the most popular autumn treats. Prices are up on many of these products this year.
Not all parts of the country are facing shortages, however. Apples in Washington state are still doing well.
"Temperatures were generally below normal during the winter months, but April and May had above-average precipitation," said Tom Kines, AccuWeather.com meteorologist.
Rainfall amounts at or above normal offer ideal conditions for apple growth. Washington also avoided the late season freezes that hit Michigan, Wisconsin, and other parts of the Midwest that had such a negative affect on the crops. Their success, however, won't be enough to offset the losses elsewhere.
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