Washington state breaks cherry crop record - The Packer

Washington state breaks cherry crop record

08/23/2012 12:11:00 PM
Andy Nelson

A record number of cherries will ship from Washington this season.

Through Aug. 22, Washington state had shipped 18.7 million boxes of cherries, according to data from the Yakima, Wash.-based Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

Also as of Aug. 22, 22.8 million boxes of cherries had shipped from the entire Pacific Northwest, also a record, and the year-end total will likely top 23 million boxes, said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Northwest Cherry Growers.

Most fruit should be packed by the end of August, said Eric Patrick, Yakima-based marketing manager for Oakland, Calif.-based Grant J. Hunt Co. The year-end total for the state could be in the 21.5 million box range, Patrick said.

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., which could be the last grower-shipper in the deal this year, expects to pick through Sept. 3, with cherries remaining in some stores until about the middle of the month, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

Yakima-based Sage Fruit Co. broke its cherry volume record this year, said Steve Reisenhauer, sales manager.

Markets in mid- to late July got “a little sloppy” because of heavy production, Reisenhauer said, but for the most part, demand was adequate to match supply this season.

“I felt we had a pretty good year,” he said. “We got through in good shape, moved product at competitive market prices.”

For the most part, fruit was spread out enough this season to allow for orderly marketing, though there were times when markets struggled to absorb the record numbers, Patrick said.

Fruit didn’t size as much as growers would have liked, leading to low prices for small fruit, which in turn dragged down the price of larger fruit at times, Patrick said.

The smaller size profile also hurt exports, he said.

But in seasons where shippers have bigger fruit, Patrick said he’s confident that demand will be there to meet other 21 million-box crops, given the right retail support.

“I think the world is ready for this many cherries,” he said. “We just need to understand that we need to keep promotions all the way into mid-August.”

On Aug. 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $32-36 for 18-pound cartons of 10-row sweetheart cherries from Washington, comparable to last year at the same time.

Through 8/22 Washington state has shipped 18,652,874 boxes of cherries in 2012.  Since you specifically said WA, this number doesn’t include Oregon.  If you include both states the total to date is 21,123,332.



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