MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) _ Dow Chemical Co. Chairman Frank Popoff refused to promise shareholders relief this year from slumping chemical profits that hurt Dow's 1990 earnings.

But Dow likely would share in any economic recovery in 1992, Popoff told about 1,300 people Thursday at the company's annual stockholders meeting.

Selling more consumer products like blood pressure pills and plastic wrap will make Dow less vulnerable to long-term ups and downs in the chemical industry, he said.

Dow posted 1990 profits of $1.38 billion, or $5.10 a share, on sales of $19.77 billion. That was down from a 1989 record of $2.49 billion, or $9.20 a share, on sales of $17.6 billion.

But 1990 nevertheless was the third-best year in Dow history, Popoff told the 94th annual meeting.

He cited analysts' predictions that Dow earnings would grow slightly in 1992 if the economy rallies.

''I'm not forecasting the end of the recession,'' he said. ''If we talk to our customers and look at the potential in the marketplace, we think the odds are better than 50-50 for an upturn, but that's in the lap of the gods.''

Dow's strategy is for consumer products to provide one-third of its revenue by the end of the decade, Popoff said.

'We will not forfeit our position as industry leader in such products as ethylene, styrene, chlorine and caustic soda,'' he said.

But he said Dow will also stress goods such as the pharmaceuticals of its Kansas City, Mo.-based Marion Merrell Dow pharmaceutical joint venture, of which Dow owns 70 percent.

Marion Merrell Dow already is Dow's consumer products star. It generates about $2.5 billion a year in sales, compared with $1.5 billion from the Dow- Elanco agricultural-chemical subsidiary and $1 billion from Dow's own consumer brands such as Ziploc plastic bags and Perma Soft shampoo, Popoff said.

Marion Merrell Dow President Fred Lyons Jr. told the shareholders that sales grew 11 percent, to $2.46 billion, in 1990, the first full year after the 1989 formation of the joint venture.