The California cherry season may be getting off to a slow start, growers say.
While potential remains for a successful 2012 season, some grower-shippers question whether there will be enough volume to sustain Memorial Day retail promotions.
That’s the overall message from grower-shippers in the Golden State.
“It just won’t be an explosive start,” said Louis Scattaglia, managing partner of Traver, Calif.-based Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC. “It will be uneven at the beginning.”
In the southern district of the San Joaquin Valley, which typically kicks off the season with varieties such as brooks, garnets, and corals, the crop appears to be “very light and late,” said Rich Sambado, sales manager for Primavera Marketing Inc., Stockton, Calif.
Several warm days in January, he said, “might have caused these trees to be a bit confused.”
Sambado said the crop probably will not peak in the south part of the valley until around the third week of May, but Primavera still should achieve its usual sales volume of about 2 million boxes.
Concern about Memorial Day volumes
The relatively light southern crop is calling into question the availability of promotable volume for Memorial Day.
“East Coast Memorial Day ads will be tough,” said Larelle Miller, sales manager at Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, Calif. “The West Coast or Midwest might be able to do it.”
However, Scattaglia said his company should be able to supply ample product for Memorial Day promotions, barring any adverse weather.
Scattaglia Growers & Shippers does not disclose specifics, but Scattaglia said the firm expects up to 40% more volume this year because it has increased its acreage.
The potential for a weather-related setback is fresh in the minds of California cherry grower-shippers.
Last year’s crop appeared excellent, with some projections calling for a second consecutive 11 million carton season. But rain, wind, and scattered hail in June heavily damaged the bing crop in the north.
“It was pretty devastating,” Miller said.
That event wiped out most of the bing crop for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., said marketing director Roger Pepperl.
Stemilt had expected to ship about 1 million cartons out of California last year, but it ended up shipping just 700,000.
Stemilt has orchards throughout the San Joaquin Valley, including around Stockton and Bakersfield, Calif.
Overall, California shipped about 6 million cartons of cherries last year, said Scott Hudson, San Joaquin County agriculture commissioner.