posted on February 16, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Denise Yockey
Conklin, Mich. - Michigan apple growers, shippers, elected officials and agricultural representatives today celebrated the first exports ever of Michigan apples to Mexico. After nearly a decade of work by the Michigan apple industry to meet Mexican selling requirements, a celebration was held at Dietrich Brothers Orchard in Conklin.
"We believe Mexico could be our single biggest export market, selling up to 500 million cases worth $6 million annually within five years," said Denise Yockey, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee. "Latin America is already our leading export destination, and with Mexico being the biggest land mass in Latin America, it is essential to our international market plans."
"This is a historic day for Michigan's apple industry," said Dan Wyant, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. "Developing and expanding export markets, such as this brand new one to Mexico, are critical components to ensuring the future profitability of our state's growers and farmers as well as the long-term viability of agriculture in Michigan."
"We are extremely pleased to have been a partner in establishing the agreement and protocol that paved the way for this first shipment to become a reality," Wyant concluded.
Also expected at the celebration were State Senator Wayne Kuipers, State Representative David Farhat, Michigan Agriculture Commissioner Jim Maitland, other state and agricultural officials, and several local apple growers.
Exporting Michigan apples to Mexico helps improve profitability of the state's apple industry by strengthening prices through market expansion. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the state's fresh apples are exported, with two-thirds of them going to Latin America. With the largest population in Latin America, Mexico should significantly increase total exports for Michigan's apple industry.
The years of effort by Michigan apple growers, shippers and agriculture officials were required to develop and implement a phytosanitary procedure, in order to convince Mexican agriculture officials that no insects or diseases would be exported along with the fruit.
For the last two years, Michigan has used federal grant funds to bring a Mexican fruit inspector to the packing houses and controlled atmosphere storage rooms in West Michigan. The inspector must be in Michigan as the storage rooms are sealed in the fall, and again in winter when they are opened after a 90-day required chilling period. He works alongside inspectors from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and US Department of Agriculture. Seven apple shippers are qualified to export to Mexico.
The chilling period has been met and the inspector's arrival is imminent. Apples will be shipped by truck to Mexico within days of the inspector's visit. A Michigan delegation will head to Mexico the first week of March for meetings with the Mexican government and to see Michigan apples in the stores.
The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded nonprofit association devoted to promotion, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption by consumers in Michigan and around the world. For more information, visit www.michiganapples.com.