Northwest cherry shippers will have the volume to help retailers make up the sales they might not be able to realize with the California deal, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Selah-based Rainier Fruit Co.
Incremental sales increases over 2013 for retailers could be substantial, since Northwest cherry volume last year was limited by rains, said Chris Falk, vice president of Washington Fruit & Produce, Yakima.
“The chains are obviously gung-ho, since last session was a wipeout,” he said. Cherries could offer huge incremental dollars to the produce demand, especially if some drought-stricken California produce items are in shorter supply.
Northwest shippers last year anticipated they would move about 7 million boxes in June, but because of 12 days of rain in June, the total packout for the month was just 4.7 million boxes, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers.
This year, with California in short supply, demand for cherries in June should be fairly brisk and the industry has the potential for 7 million boxes that month.
Thurlby said July may feature up to 13 million boxes of cherries and August volume is expected to be up to 3 million boxes.
The harvest timing of the 2014 Northwest cherry crop is ahead of some recent years, Thurlby said. In 2009, the first cherries in the Northwest were not picked until June 18.
The timing this year is expected to be June 4-5, close to the start date of June 1 last year.
“This is two years in a row with an earlier than average start date,” Thurlby said.
The 10-year average start date is June 7, he said.