Washington cherries reach promotable volumeAfter a long delay, Washington cherries are finally shipping in volume, and prices have come down accordingly.

About 400,000 boxes of Washington cherries shipped on July 6 alone, according to the Yakima, Wash.-based Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

On July 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $32-34 for 18-pound cartons of 10 ½-row cherries from Washington, comparable to last year and down from $60 for California cherries in mid-June.

“Things are going pretty well right now,” Eric Patrick, Yakima-based marketing director for Grant J. Hunt Co., Oakland, Calif., said July 7. “It was incredibly tight up to the Fourth (of July), but now it has loosened up a bit. Demand seems really strong.”

Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc., also reported a strong start to July.

“Cherry movement is fantastic,” he said July 7. “Movement is good and pricing is also good.”

Retail promotional support the week of the Fourth was strong, good news for Washington shippers looking to make up for lost time, Patrick said.

“Volumes are ramping up at a nice, manageable level,” he said.

Retailers missed out on Fourth of July promotions because of an historically cold, wet spring in Washington.

April was the coldest on record in the state, and May was the third-wettest.

Bing volumes were already at peak levels the week of July 4, and abundant supplies of rainiers also were shipping, Patrick said. Quality on both varieties has been very good.

Pepperl characterized quality as outstanding.

“We’re moving into a peak on rainiers right now, and they are nice,” he said July 7. “Much of the rainiers are 9-row and larger with high brix.”

Stemilt expects a second wave of dark cherries to hit about July 25, with a peak expected to last at least three weeks.

Stemilt should have late-season cherries until about Sept. 7, Pepperl said.

Lapins, sweethearts and other varieties should ship from Grant Hunt the week of July 11, Patrick said.

Ten million boxes of cherries could ship from Washington in what promises to be a very busy July, according to the Grower-Shippers Association.

The week ending July 2, about 22.7 million pounds of cherries shipped from Washington, down from 37.2 million pounds last year at the same time, according to the USDA.

For the season, about 32.2 million pounds had shipped as of July 3, down from 72.8 million pounds last year at the same time.

California’s 2011 cherry volumes, meanwhile, wound up being significantly down from last year.

About 82.7 million pounds had shipped as of July 3, down from 123.9 million pounds last year, according to the USDA.