2017-02-09 / Front Page

A Leelanau Enterprise opinion: Cherries face 2 more challenges

In the race to the top of the fruit pile, blueberries are picking up their pace.

But we’ll give the nod to cherries because ... well, at least partially because we join Leelanau County in loving them.

That plus — and we know how subjective this sounds — we think they taste better and are better for you.

Blueberry producers in Michigan have voted to tax their products to initiate the Michigan Blueberry Research & Education Program, which plans to “implement new research keeping the state’s farmers economically competitive in the growing world market.” That from a Michigan Department of Agriculture press release.

The United States Highbush Blueberry Council has for years been funding research that has shown blueberries to possess some of the same health benefits for humans as cherries.

We don’t live in “blueberry country,” but we’re closer than most might think. Michigan is the nation’s leading commercial producer of blueberries.

Of course, Leelanau grows more cherries than any other county in the country. And Michigan produces more tart cherries than any other state.

We point out the move made by blueberry producers to show the level of competitiveness within the fruit industry. Even the lovable orange has come under siege. Frozen orange juice sales have plummeted 39 percent since 2012, according to the Business Insider publication, amidst revelations that orange juice fails to provide the nutritional benefits assumed by the public.

The cherry industry several years ago came to understand that cherry pies would represent a slimming percentage of its future as the health conscientiousness of consumers awakened. The effort has certainly been worthwhile, as the cherry market has stabilized.

But in talking with growers and producers over the past several weeks, we’ve come to realize that two new threats need to be addressed: the growing poundage of imported cherries from Europe, and a tiny fruit fly — also imported, but from Asia — that requires amped up spraying.

Our reporting of those challenges can be found in our National Cherry Month section published this week.

To be honest, we have come to realize that imports and the spotted wing drosophila fruit fly are difficult challenges in a highly competitive market.

But that’s not the whole story. We also found a cherry industry that remains united heading forward, that often resembles a big family with the expected squabbles from within. And a united front when challenged.

You can do your part by eating a few more cherries during National Cherry Month, patting a cherry grower on the back and talking up the industry with friends.

We all have a stake in cherries.

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