Packer Interview - Maurice Cameron April 24.prproj
( The Packer )

Previewing the California cherry crop, The Packer's Tom Karst visited April 24 with Maurice Cameron, president of Hanford, Calif.-based Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC.

Cooler-than-normal temperatures in April in the Arvin/Kern County region has slowed cherry progress in southern growing areas, while northern cherry districts have been advancing in a more typical way, he said.

That combination of conditions has compressed the season; Cameron said Flavor Tree will begin cherry picking by April 25.

Cameron noted better-than-expected export market prospects for cherries, as airlines are trying to accommodate air freight for cherries despite reduced numbers of flights.

"We see opportunities to go to Korea with cherries on many different airlines because the airlines are hurting for revenue, so they are willing to invest in the California cherry crop because it's a commodity that will move by air cargo," he said.

The California cherry crop is setting up for good promotion opportunities for Memorial Day, he said.

"We just need to understand the price points that are going to move that are going to move the crop," he said.

Cameron said one of the biggest labor challenges this year will be training the workforce on COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing. Packing houses with some older cherry lines may more suffer productivity losses than orchards because of social distancing precautions, he said.

Cameron also talks about how customer relationships and marketing are being affected by COVID-19, and what the rest of the year may look like for industry events.

"I think there may be a marked change in how people do business," Cameron said. "I think more and more retail buyers are more comfortable doing video conferencing."


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