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Washtenaw County Cider Mills, Stores See Higher Apple Prices Due to Crop Shortage

A spring freeze has resulted in the lightest apple crop since 1945, raising prices on apples and apple products at businesses like Dexter Cider Mill, Kroger, and Biggby Coffee.

This fall, an apple a day may cost a bit more.

Apple prices have gone up after a spring freeze resulted in the lightest apple crop in the state since 1945, said Richard Koziski, owner of the Dexter Cider Mill.

A week of 90-degree temperatures in March caused the trees to bloom early. Then, a series of cold April nights killed those apple blossoms.

“The trees are still fine for next year, but it takes the crop for this year,” Koziski said.

Washtenaw County stores like Kroger and Biggby Coffee have also been affected by the crop shortage. They say they too will have to raise prices and ship in apples from out of state. Other businesses like Grand Traverse Pie Company, is relying heavily from producers in the northern part of the state.

Located on the banks of the Huron River, the Dexter Cider Mill lost all its 500 trees this season.

"I've never experienced anything like this, at least not to the degree we saw this year," Koziski said.

But Koziski ensures orchard patrons that there will not be a shortage of apples, baked goods or apple cider, as the orchard is buying apples and cider from orchards in West Michigan for “considerably” higher prices, resulting in a roughly 25 percent price hike this year for orchard patrons.

“We added new stuff this year because we knew it was going to be a light apple crop,” he said. “But we want to get it out there that the apples, apple cider and activities are out in full force.”

Koziski recommends customers come early this fall because the orchard may run out of certain varieties of apples and products as the cooler weather sets in.

Grand Traverse Pie Co. heads north for apples

Grand Traverse Pie Company, headquartered in Traverse City, buys roughly 250,000 to 300,000 pounds of apples each year to make roughly 200,000 pies, co-owner Mike Busley said.

"The spring warmth and April freezes had a significant effect on our state’s apple crop, as well as the other fruit crops such as cherries, peaches, plums, and pears," Busley said. "The good news is that the Amos Farm just north of Elk Rapids did not suffer the damage that most encountered so they will see good yield from that orchard. Consequently all of our apple pies will be full of Amos Farm’s  Northern Spy apples grown on the 45th parallel between the Grand Traverse Bay and Torch Lake."

Busley said Northern Spy apples are a good variety for baking.

"We get some of the first apples off the trees when they are still firm in order to preserve the shape of the apples in our pies, but also to give them that added tart flavor," he said.

"We are so grateful to the Amos family, as well as our friends and processing partners at Smeltzer Orchard Company in Frankfort. They process apples from Amos Farm and many other local growers and they are another multi-generation family business working hard to bring the bounty of our state to all of our tables," Busley added.

Kroger stores expect fewer apples, higher prices

Kroger stores will continue to sell apples and apple cider, but they expect to have less supply and for prices to rise, said Dale Hollandsworth, consumer communications spokesperson for Kroger.

“We intend to continue to sell apples and cider, but, unfortunately, there will be a lot less of the Michigan products,” he said.

Kroger intends to bring in apples from other locations to fill in the gap caused by the shortage.

“Because the apple shortage is most critical right here in Michigan, Michigan apples are going to be a little tough to get,” he said. “But, one great thing about our economy and the agricultural community is that there’s still New York and Washington and other locations still growing apples.”

An additional effect the shortage will have on Kroger stores is a decrease in advertising and promotional efforts behind apple sales. There will be fewer promotions involving reduced apple prices as there have been in the past.

“I think what you’ll see probably more than any substantial price increases is less promotions and events surrounding apples,” Hollandsworth said.

Biggby adds dollar to apple cider drink

Biggby Coffee has raised prices on its Caramel Apple Cider about a dollar at all of its franchise locations. Biggby spokesperson Katie Koerner said that Biggby's cost to purchase the product have doubled.

Koerner said Biggby buys a majority of its apple crops from the Mid-Michigan area, but with the decimation of the crops the company has had to moved to out-of-state sources. So not only do the apples cost more because of the shortage, but the company must now pay transportation costs to get them to its stores as well.

"We felt that we could stop offering it, but we felt that fall is synonymous with Biggby Caramel Apple Cider, so we didn't want to not offer it," she said. "We want to make our customers happy. So we decided if we were going to do that, we were going to have to go ahead and raise the price."

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