California cherry producers expect another big year

03/23/2011 09:18:53 AM
Don Schrack

With the cherry harvest countdown in its final weeks, there are signs California could produce another bumper crop, grower-shippers said, with promotable supplies of the fruit from early May until late June.

“If you just look at the dormancy and the bloom so far, and take into account the buds that are on the trees this year, this could be a very, very nice crop,” said Jim Hanson, managing director of Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton.

Depending on the growing region, the California cherry harvest should be right on time or a mere few days later than normal.

Kern County orchards are traditionally the first to produce ripe cherries. Bakersfield-based Harold Crawford Co. Inc. will start the season with pollinator varieties, such as royal lees, said Chris Callahan, sales and cherry procurement.

“We’re looking to start about April 25,” he said. “The harvest of brooks will begin May 5-7 and the tulares, about seven days later.”

With new acreage reaching maturity, this 2011 cherry deal has the potential to be bigger than last year, Callahan said.

Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., sees a similar picture for its California cherry crop.

“We’re planning to start picking the first week in May,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director. “With the good, even bloom and the good chill hours, the state could reach 11.5 million cartons.”

Chill hours are periods when the temperature is 45 degrees or lower. Cherry trees require 800 to 900 chill hours annually, grower-shippers said.

The season opening varieties for Stemilt will be brooks, garnets and corals, Pepperl said.

The kick off Kern County cherries for Hanford-based Flavor Tree Fruit Co. will be its proprietary variety, sequoia.

“I’m about 95% certain that all of our Kern County cherries will be sequoias,” said Maurice Cameron, president. “We’re scheduled to begin the harvest slightly before May 1.”

Picking of Flavor Tree Fruit’s other proprietary variety, Yosemite, will begin about May 16, he said.

Fresno-based Tristone International LLC is scheduled to begin picking the first week in May, said owner Michael Jameson.

Tristone began marketing cherries from Morada Produce Co. LP, Stockton, in 2003.

“We marketed 84,000 cartons that year, and last year we were just under 1.2 million cartons,” Jameson said. “There’s the potential for 1.5 million cartons this year.”

The harvest start at the northern end of the valley is less certain, due to a series of March rain storms.

“It’s still so early and our bloom is a little bit later than last year,” Larelle Miller, sales manager at Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi, said March 18.


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