STOCKTON, Calif. — An already wet California found the dawn of spring bringing even more rain to all of the state’s cherry growing regions.

By the end of March, grower-shippers were storing their raincoats and were guardedly optimistic.

The weather in February and March is always unpredictable, said Richard Sambado, sales manager for Primavera Marketing Inc., Stockton.

“You go up three steps one day, you go back two steps the next day,” he said.

“We had some pockets in the state that got some severe weather during the pollination process, but I think there’s enough acreage and there’ll be enough good weather.”

Because of the rain, picking could be delayed a few days in the southern and central growing regions. Most grower-shippers were targeting May 2 to begin the harvest.

Despite a bumper 2010 crop and the commodity’s trend to alternate bearing years, some grower-shippers anticipate that volume will again exceed 11 million cartons.

Jim Culbertson, executive manager of the California Cherry Advisory Board, is not so certain. However, he said the state’s cherry farmland has been increasing by about 1,000 acres a year.

“We’re in the 35,000-acre range right now,” Culbertson said. “That’s a doubling of our acreage over the last 20 years.”

There was general agreement among all grower-shippers that California will ship promotable supplies of cherries from the first week in May through about June 20.

“They are the first cherries to hit the market every year,” Culbertson said.

“It’s critical that we get shelf space. Cherries are a high-profit item for retail, so retailers respond pretty well.”