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NW cherry crop projected 50% larger than last year

NW cherries 2023

Richland, WA – May 17 – 2023. The Northwest Cherry Growers BB #:162657 gathered to discuss the crop prospects for the 2023 cherry crop.

Representatives from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana have determined that the 2023 crop has great potential relative to crop volume and fruit size. As weather across the region has generally been in the 80 degree F range the past two weeks it is clear that the region is seeing optimal weather for cell division for size and sugar development.

This year the first bloom in our earliest orchards began on April 8th, with full bloom coming on April 15th. The normal growth cycle for sweet cherries is 60 to 65 days from pollination to harvest. The earliest harvest is expected to fall on or near June 15th. If the weather remains warm … we can expect a crop that will peak on 10 row cherries.

After reviewing degree day build up, bloom timing and potential fruit set on our trees; the industry believes that there is potential for a crop of 19.9 million 20 lb. boxes. This would constitute a 50% increase in crop size as compared to the 13.3 million box crop we saw in 2022.

Cherries in the early and mid-season districts appear to have set a nice crop. This was the expectation and the hope, and as of today, the crop is developing beautifully. Late season growers also expect to have a moderate to average crop in 2023.

Our post 4th of July orchards have experienced a “flash bloom” that has resulted in some pollination issues. We are seeing some orchards that are lighter than expected – as crop load will run from 5 to 10 tons to the acre based on location. The good news for our late season offerings is that growers are expecting great size and sugars!

This year’s bloom timing was a full 14 to 20 days behind our 2022 bloom pattern. As mentioned, the recent uptick in temperatures across the Northwest has resulted in full bloom in all but the very latest orchards. The bloom chart below is significant in that it shows just how late the 2023 bloom was compared to other production years.

The chart below shows the growing degree day build up across key production districts. The recent warm weather has helped the 2023 degree day model to jump up significantly over the past several weeks.

The unpredictable nature of fresh cherries is part of what makes them so beloved by consumers and bemoaned by retail buyers. As cherries are a truly “seasonal” item there is an annual challenge to garner and keep shelf space. Fortunately, the numbers speak for themselves…

Cherries are a stalwart of summer displays, still turning in the most dollars-per-square foot in the competitive summer produce season. Cherries over-perform for their space, doubling what grapes produced in an audit of departments across the U.S. last season. For full details of the study, contact your NW Cherries representative.

Cherries are an impulse item, hands down. In fact, nearly 3 out of every 4 bags sold is purchased individually from a brick-and-mortar store shelf. Location and visibility remain key to driving cherry sales, whether it’s a shorter crop year or if the sale takes place on a website and not from a great store display.

In fact, data suggests that some of the top cherry buyers may trend toward shopping online. Ignoring that a significant number of online cherry shoppers made their first purchase online in 2017 or before, if you look at simply the likelihood of being a weekly cherry shopper it doubles if the purchase is made online. Online shoppers are a full one-third more likely to buy 2 bags of cherries at a time, and are 400% more likely to buy 3 or more bags.

Mother Nature is still the largest shareholder in our crop, and we will have to see how the rest of the growing season progresses. As of today, there appear to remain promotable opportunities for what should be a crop of dessert-quality fruit. We will continue to monitor the development on the trees, and will provide a series of updates over the next few weeks as harvest draws closer and the orchards proceed through their “drop” periods. In the meantime, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Northwest Cherry Growers representative!