Weather and demand from other markets could affect supplies of Chilean cherries, Asian pears and other fruits this winter.
Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sonoma, Calif., said more than 75 varieties of fresh fruits are exported from Chile to North America each year.
But the top five by volume — grapes, apples, avocados, blueberries and navel oranges — account for about three-quarters of the total, Tjerandsen said.
All signs were pointing toward a normal start to the 2012-13 winter season, Tjerandsen said.
“Currently, the fruit is right on time and we see no significant shifts in the traditional shipping patterns,” he said. “Depending on the variety, there could be some significant shifts (in volume), but in general we continue to strive, with the help of Mother Nature, to set a new record total every year.”
Speaking of Mother Nature, some Chilean growers are dealing with weather-related headaches thus far this season, but nothing out of the ordinary, Tjerandsen said.
“As usual, a few late frosts are wreaking havoc with early stone fruit varieties — apricots, cherries, etc. — in the far south, where this is traditionally a challenge.”
The earliest fruit will likely arrive in early December, with deals typically winding down in about mid-April, Tjerandsen said.
Problems during the flowering stage could reduce the number of fresh Chilean cherries shipped to North America this winter, which won’t make retailers or consumers very happy, said Craig Padover, stone fruit category manager for Jac Vandenberg Inc., Yonkers, N.Y.
“I think there’s a reduction in the projected volumes for cherries, which is everyone’s favorite item,” Padover said.
North America received about 3 million boxes of cherries from Chile last season.
Vandenberg’s first arrivals of cherries by air are expected about Nov. 12, with the first vessel arrivals scheduled for about Dec. 6-10, just in time for peak volumes around the holidays, Padover said.
Vandenberg expects to have Chilean cherries available for sale in the U.S. through January, Padover said.
Cherries marketed by Lake Success, N.Y.-based William H. Kopke Jr. Inc. should begin arriving in early November, likely slightly later than normal, said Peter Kopke, the company’s president.
It was still too early to tell for sure what 2012-13 volumes would be, Kopke said.
“Right now the crop looks to be OK, but they still could have rain and frost,” he said.