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Northwest poised for near-record cherry crop

Northwest cherry grower-shippers project another large cherry crop, which is less than a month from harvest.

James Michael, vice president of marketing for North America for the Washington State Fruit Commission, Yakima, BB #:162666 said he sent a report May 14, which forecast the Northwest crop at 24.9 million 20-pound cartons, slightly down from last year and the record 2017 crops.

He said in March, when there was still snow on the ground, the start was projected for somewhere in the June 20s, but now with the warm up, it’s more like mid- to early teens.

Mike Preacher, director of marketing and customer relations for Domex Superfresh Growers, LLC, Yakima, WA, BB #:113721 agreed the crop is late, mostly due to the long, cold winter, but high May temperatures got the crop moving.

“It may be more compressed, but we expect cherries well into August,” he said.

Blaine Markley, director of domestic sales for Rainier Fruit, Yakima, WA, said the snow hung around pretty late in the winter, but May has warmed up quickly, so the crop won’t be as late as they originally thought.

“We expect a good sized crop with bigger sizes,” she said.

Rainier Fruit has cherry acres all over the state from the Canadian border to the Oregon border in the south, she said, which means the company expects to ship cherries from early June to early August.

Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, WA, BB #:113654 said the crop will show its strength in July.

“Washington is late, and we’ll ramp up slowly,” she said. “We’ll have ample supplies for Fourth of July. July will be a huge month.”

Meanwhile, California cherry growers are still assessing what damage the mid-May rains did to the crop as it was getting up to speed.

Shales said Stemilt grows cherries in California too and was waiting to see if there would be much damage.

“We don’t know much as the rain hasn’t arrived yet,” she said May 15. “For now, we are in full packing mode with great fruit heading to retail the rest of the week.”

Dick Reiman, president of River City Produce Sales, Sacramento, CA, BB #:128281 said he started shipping cherries last week.

“The volume will be affected by the rain last week and the next 5-6 days of heavy rain,” he said May 15. “If it rains as much as predicted, the early varieties will be in big trouble.”

However, this year represents a huge rebound from last year. This year’s crop is projected to be 10-11 million cartons, which would be a big improvement on last year’s 3.6 million cartons.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services