( Courtesy Northwest Cherry Growers )

Northwest Cherry Growers, Yakima, Wash., estimates production for this season will be 20.5 million 15-pounds boxes.

The “round 1” estimate typically has the most variance from the eventual size of the crop, according to a news release from the group, and future forecasts will be released as the season progresses.

The cherry group said a generally warm January and February gave the crop one of the earliest starts on record, but relatively cool weather since then has “tempered progression.”

“As always, it will take a few weeks to determine how much of this year’s crop will remain on the tree,” according to the release. “These ‘drops’ are natural and taken into account in our subsequent estimates.”

The round 1 estimate uses feedback from growers, historical models, weather forecasts, orchard visits and other information, according to the release. 

The group expects a strong start to the season in late May, and at this point, one of the widest spreads with the late-season Chelan, Wash., district.

“In a year where many retailers are experiencing reduced store trips and customers looking for a taste of summer, a strong June start and a longer crop is about as best as can be hoped for at this stage,” according to the release. “Historically, this type of separation in degree days across the districts points to a full season where the industry will have 95-plus days of sales to move the crop.”

Rainier cherry production is expected to be more than two million 15-pound boxes, extending the variety’s season “easily” past National Rainier Cherry Day, July 11.

The group cited “extraordinary” data coming from retailers as the pandemic changes consumers’ behavior, and it is focused on a marketing plan to announce the crop and stimulate demand.

“In the case of a highly seasonal refrigerated product that registers 72% impulse sales, we must be willing and able to meet consumers with our message wherever and however they may be shopping,” according to the release.

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