( File photo )

Flavor Tree Fruit offers new proprietary varieties

Flavor Tree Fruit Co. offers substantial volume of California’s organic cherries, said Maurice Cameron, sales manager for Flavor Tree Fruit Co., Hanford, Calif.

“There is not a lot of organic cherries in California, but we are significant portion of them,” he said.

Overall volume for the firm may account for 8% to 9% of total cherry volume from the state, Cameron said. Volume may be from 600,000 cartons to 700,000 cartons, he said.

“We represent a lot of volume on the front side of the deal,” he said. “As a company we may peak the first week of May.”

The firm offers proprietary cherry varieties, including the Sequoia cherry and the Yosemite.

The Sequoia will start harvest April 26.

“Consumers love it because of the flavor and the crunch,” he said.

The Yosemite is a mid-May cherry, offering high brix and a crunchy cherry.

The company will offer two new as-yet-unnamed proprietary varieties this year on the front end of the season, before the Sequoia season, Cameron said.

The varieties offer a little earlier timing, good yields and nice quality and flavor, he said.


Grower Direct Marketing adds optical sorting capacity

Grower Direct Marketing has replaced one of its cherry packing lines with a new 20 lane Unitec optical line, said Matt Nowak, domestic and export account manager for Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton, Calif.

“We will be running 100% of our fruit, OG Packing and Grower Direct Marketing, across optical sorting lines,” he said.

Grower Direct will have a very marketable crop, with plentiful supply a certain points throughout the season to run good promotions with domestic retailers. The largest percentage of the cherry crop for Grower Direct will come off in the latter part of May and into early June, he said.


International Fruit Genetics aims to expand varieties

Seeking to breed cherries suited to the limited low-chill growing environment of the southern San Joaquin Valley, International Fruit Genetics of Bakersfield has released several varieties that are being planting commercially.

Chris Owens, plant breeder with the firm, said the company is mainly focused on early maturing cherry varieties that are adapted to the climate in the San Joaquin Valley, which has mild winters and little winter chill.

“There are a few growers in Australia and Chile that are starting to plant the varieties on a commercial scale,” he said. Cheery Grand and Cheery Moon are a couple of the new varieties planted commercially, he said.

About six cherry varieties have been named and are being tested extensively in many locations in California and other countries, he said.

“Historically, (the southern San Joaquin region) is a low chill area, sort of the southern limit of cherry production on the West Coast,” Owens said. “It is always a struggle to get the chilling hours, but we have a number of selections that crop consistently every year.”

According to the company’s website, most cherry trees have traditionally required 800 to 1,000 hours of temperature ranging from 35 degrees to 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

IFG has created varieties that need less than half that.


King Fresh Produce adds California volume

Dinuba, Calif.-based King Fresh Produce will market cherries from Katicich Ranch in Stockton, Calif., according to Keith Wilson, owner of the company. That will give King Fresh cherries from the beginning of the California cherry deal to the end, he said.

Katicich Ranch is installing a new Red Pearl optical sorting line for cherries this year, Wilson said, representing an investment of $1.5 million to completely rebuild their packing line.

King Fresh will also have Royal Tioga cherries this year, a high flavor early variety that can harvested 10 days earlier than a brooks.

The firm does not yet have organic volume, but will have transitional cherry supplies from a grower that is converting acreage to organic.

Total fresh cherry volume for the firm is expected near 300,000 cartons.


Morada Produce sees rainiers growing

Rainier variety cherries are increasing in California for Linden, Calif.-based Morada Produce.

“We are getting bigger and bigger in rainiers,” said Mike Jameson, director of sales and marketing for the company, estimating the variety may account about 8% of the company’s total cherry volume.

Morada may account for about 16% of total California fresh cherry volume, Jameson said.

Morada Produce has planted more coral variety cherries in the past five years or so, Jameson said. The variety requires less chill hours than brooks or Tulare and generally sets more consistent crops, he said.

“We seem to have a good crop of corals in most districts.”

Morada Produce, now with about 60 lanes of Unitec optical sorting capacity, will add another 40 lanes of optical sorting capacity in 2019, Jameson said.


Oppy continues Costa & Sons marketing partnership

In 2017, the British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group formed an marketing partnership with Lodi, Calif.-based Felix Costa & Sons and shipped California cherries under Costa’s Brookside label.

That relationship will continue this year, said David Nelley, vice president of apples, pears, cherries and global exports for Oppy.

“For our specific growers, we start off reasonably well and tail off toward the end,” he said, noting expectations for good quality.

Costa & Sons will have two optical sorting Unitec lines running this year, up from one a year ago, Nelley said.

China’s tariffs on U.S. cherries aren’t expected to have a huge impact, he said.

“We will be looking for a strong U.S. market to give some diversity away from China,” he said.

Brookside label cherries should begin by May 3, Nelley said, and will continue until just before the start of Oppy’s Orchard View cherries in Oregon about June 10-15.


Primavera Marketing offers variety options

Primavera Marketing will offer a variety of cherries from several growing districts this year, said Rich Sambado, sales manager for Primavera Marketing Inc., Linden, Calif.

“We are positioned with fruit in Arvin, up through the valley in Fresno/Visalia and up to Modesto/Stockton, Lodi and Linden,” he said.

Brooks and Tulare cherry varieties are available from Fresno south, while the coral (also called the coral champagne) is grown from Arvin to Lodi, Sambado said. Bings are mainly grown Modesto and north, he said.

About 30% of the company’s volume will be exported, with South Korea a strong market for 9.5-row to 10-row premium cherries.


Stemilt Growers sees good late season volume

While California’s early season volume will be off compared with last year, late district will offer good cherry volume, according to Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, marketers of cherries from Chinchiolo Stemilt California.

“It looks to me the front end of the deal is a little bit more challenged than the back end of the deal,” Pepperl said.

Bing bloom puts the industry in peak volume the last week of May and the first week of June, said Mike Collins, salesman in Stemilt Growers’ office in Stockton, Calif.

Stemilt also offers organic California cherries, representing about one-third of total organic cherry volume in the state in 2017, Collins said. Only about 0.4% of the total cherry volume is organic, Collins said.

Stemilt expects to ship 10% to 12% of the California cherry crop, Collins said.

He said Stemilt expects to have a smooth transition without a gap between California and Northwest cherry production this year.