Northwest cherry crop shouldn't be late for the Fourth of July party

05/10/2010 01:21:21 PM
Tom Karst

Northwest U.S. cherries won’t be late to the July 4 party celebration.

“That (availability) is the No. 1 issue,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Wenatchee, Wash.-based Northwest Cherry Growers. “There will be plenty of cherries before the Fourth.”

The first cherries for The Oppenheimer Group are anticipated by June 10, said David Smith, vice president of sales for the  Vancouver, British Columbia company.

Smith said Oppenheimer — which markets Oregon cherries exclusively — will offer cherries until the second week of August.

“There will be enough cherries out there for retailers to have the confidence to get large-sized, high-quality cherries to the consumer,” he said.

In fact, retailers will likely find significant promotion opportunities before Independence Day weekend, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director for Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash.

Rainier will likely have fruit the first week of June, she said.

While growers hold their breath on the weather right up until harvest — always hoping to avoid frost in April and hail in May — Wolter said generally warm weather early in the growing season led to quicker bloom development and a longer selling season this year, she said.

Northwest growing regions had the fourth warmest January, February and March in the past 15 years, Thurlby said.

The weather has been so optimal that the industry expects a full crop of cherries, though smaller than the record 20.4 million boxes shipped last year.

The 2010 Northwest cherry crop could tally up to 18 million cartons, which is 2 million packed boxes less than last year and 8 million boxes short of last year’s on-tree cherry crop, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers Inc.

“In general, the crop is probably 10 days earlier this season,” he said.

Most unofficial trade estimates place the Northwest cherry crop at 16 million to 18 million boxes of dark sweet cherries, while the rainier variety should equal about 1.7 million boxes.

Rainiers may come out a bit shorter than early estimates, said Joan Tabak, sales manager for Fridley, Minn.-based Roland Marketing, marketer of Green Giant-branded cherries from Washington and Oregon.

Northwest cherry marketers will be able to deliver a good volume of large-sized cherries to the marketplace, he said.

Cherry size may peak on 10 row, said Keith Horder, director of business development for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc.

Last season’s crop was late and overset with fruit. This year, growers pruned heavily and secured larger fruit for this season’s harvest, marketers said.


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