Cold delays Oregon cherries, berries

06/03/2009 02:02:10 PM
Andy Nelson

Fruit growers in Oregon are catching up after an unseasonably cold start to spring, but some crops will still come off too late to leverage Fourth of July demand.

Oregon cherry growers represented by Oakland, Calif.-based Grant J. Hunt Co. expect to begin harvesting June 15-17, a week to 10 days later than normal, said Eric Patrick, marketing director.

That will likely mean lower volumes than normal for Independence Day, Patrick said.

“West of the Mississippi will probably be fine, but the East Coast will probably not have the volumes we’d hope to have for the Fourth,” he said.

                                         Courtesy Grant J. Hunt Co.

Chelan cherries begin to color up May 28 for Oakland, Calif.-based Grant J. Hunt Cos.’ crop. Eric Patrick, marketing director, expects cherry harvests to begin June 15-17.

Cold spring weather likely won’t affect quality and yields, Patrick said.

Hood River Cherry Co., Hood River, Ore., expects to begin shipping cherries about July 20, about five days later than usual, said Brad Fowler, one of the company’s owners.

But that gap could narrow, he said.

“We had unusual cold weather the first half of May that set us back at least a week,” Fowler said June 2. “However, now we’ve had 1½ weeks of above-average temperatures, so it’s possible we’re edging back towards normal.”

Berries grown by Hurst’s Berry Farm Inc., Sheridan, Ore., had been running about two weeks late, said Mark Hurst, president. Warmer weather in late May, however, had cut that delay to 3-5 days, he said.

“We had a pretty cold spring and winter, and the bloom was delayed quite a bit,” Hurst said June 2. “But the past 10 days we’ve had very good weather, 80s every day.”

Because of its high altitude, Hood River Cherry, the last Northwest cherry shipper out of the gate, missed out on the warm April blossom period most other Oregon and Washington cherry growers were able to take advantage of, Fowler said.

Instead, the cold weather during its May blossom period could cut the company’s volumes this season by 20%, he said. 
 
Hurst’s Berry Farm expects to begin shipping gooseberries the week of June 8, with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and currants following at the end of June, Hurst said.

Blueberries should ship into October, but other berry varieties will likely wind down toward the end of July, Hurst said. The company will kick off a kiwiberry deal in October, he said.

In early June, Hurst was holding judgment on where blueberry markets might be at the beginning of the Oregon deal.

“Fresh has been doing good, but we’ll kind of wait and see,” he said. “It depends on too many things to make a prediction.”

On June 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $22-24.50 for flats of 12 1-pint cups of medium and large blueberries from California, down from $26-28.90 last year at the same time.

Hood River Cherry expects to ship a similar mix of bings, lapins, skeenas, rainiers and sweethearts this season, Fowler said.

On June 2, the USDA reported prices of $45-50 for 18-pound cartons of 9½-row size bings from California, comparable to last year at the same time.



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