Very low supplies have sent California cherry prices skyrocketing.

On May 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $83-90 for 16-pound cartons of bagged 10-row brooks, up from $38-44 last year at the same time.

Brooks 12-row were $50-60, up from $20. Ten-row tulares were $82-85, up from $40.

On-ad retail prices for cherries averaged $4.75 per pound in the week ending May 16, up from $2.92 the week before, according to the USDA.

David White, president of Fresno, Calif.-based Trinity Fruit Sales Co., said volumes are much lower than in 2006, the last significant down year for the California cherry industry.

Growers reported a shortage of chill hours over the winter.

“This is the worst by far,” White said. “Nothing even comes close. The crop set has been very intermittent. Tulare, brooks and rainier volumes have been very light.”

In the week ending May 17, 43 million pounds of California cherries shipped, down from 143 million pounds in the same week last year, according to the USDA.

Year-to-date, 94 million pounds had shipped through May 17, down from 255 million pounds last year at the same time.

Cherry markets show no signs of weakening anytime soon, said Rene Millburn, public relations director for King Fresh Produce LLC, Dinuba, Calif.

“Prices will increase and remain somewhat high on California cherries,” Millburn said. “Since the Northwest and California crops appear to have little to no overlap this year, consumer demand should remain relatively consistent to high.”

King Fresh expected to wind down its southern San Joaquin deal in the first week of June.

Trinity planned to wrap up its California deal with bings, which were expected to begin shipping about May 24. The company’s bing lots also are very light, White said.

Even when Trinity had some good sets — on brooks blocks near Reedley, Calif. — rains inflicted significant damage, White said.

The quality of fruit shipping in the second half of May also varied “lot by lot,” White said.