Predicted early cherry start cheers marketers

05/21/2013 12:37:00 PM
Tom Karst

YAKIMA, Wash. — Northwest cherry marketers don’t plan to be late for Independence Day fireworks from U.S. retailers.

For the first time in six years, the industry expects ample volume of cherries in June, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers.

Depending on weather, the first shipments of cherries in the state could start from June 1 through June 3.

“I like that scenario for the growers because it really gives you a chance to get going before the Fourth of July,” Thurlby said. “The key is that we are going to be able to tell every retailer that cherries will be real opportunity the last couple weeks of June and the Fourth of July holiday,” he said.

Provided rain events are kept to a minimum, Thurlby said growers are looking forward to a good year.

“An earlier crop will lead to a full crop for the Fourth of the July for the first time since 2007,” Thurlby said.

The record crop of 23 million 20-pound boxes of Northwest cherries last year was a 23% increase over the 2011 crop.

The Northwest will likely harvest a cherry crop in the 18 million to 20 million carton range in 2013, said Steve Clement, chief operating officer and general manager for Sage Fruit Co.

As with any years, swings in temperatures and rain could slow, speed or interrupt timing of the crop, Clement said.

“The question is just how spread out it will be,” Clement said.

While last year was a record crop, Clement said it was spread out nicely and weathered multiple rain events better than expected. That was unlike the 2009 crop year, Clement said, when the harvest was very compressed.

Most shippers expected a favorable marketing season.

“We expect to have a large crop but a long shipping window — probably one of the longest we have ever seen,” said Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee.

With good weather, the Northwest could have more than 20 million cartons, said Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan. The crop appears to be setting up for good quality, he said.

Northwest shippers were hoping for less rain this year than they experienced a year ago.

Well more than a dozen rain events in 2012 caused some interruptions in marketing, Riggan said.

“It just knocked the quality edge out because every time you got out of one you got a new one,” he said.

Quality-related adjustments upon arrival caused a reduction in returns for growers, he said.


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