Skylar Rae cherries ( CMI Orchards )

The Northwest cherry season is off and running, with industry leaders predicting good volume for July 4 promotions and beyond.

B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, Yakima, said about 2.5 million cartons had been picked as of June 19. Total Northwest cherry volume this year is expected to fall somewhere between 20 million and 23 million cartons. Harvest this year stated about June 8, about a week behind a year ago, Thurlby said.

Growers were transitioning from early red varieties to bings, and rainier cherries were also being picked, he said.

Weather has been excellent for harvest and cherry size was expected to trend higher as the season progresses, he said.

“We really think we will have a lot of fruit for the Fourth of July,” he said.

Export sales to Vietnam, South Korea and other Asian markets have been strong. The high 50% tariff impose by China on U.S. cherries will keep that country a “quiet” export market this year,” Thurlby said.
At Wenatchee, Wash.-based CMI Orchards, Steve Castleman, vice president of sales for the company, said quality and appearance of the cherries is excellent.

“Our cherries ripened up a few days earlier than expected as the weather has really been favorable this spring,” he said in a news release. “Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures have brought the color and sugars up and we’re looking at a superior harvest with sweet, vibrant and high-quality fruit for the duration of the season.”

Tim Welsh, a general manager for Columbia Fruit Packers (one of four grower/packer companies that owns CMI Orchards) said in the release the Washington cherry crop has seen very little wind, and that has resulted in very clean fruit.

Welsh said in the release that sizing will be mixed with a range of small to extra large at the beginning of the season.

“As the season progresses, our cherries continue to get larger and larger, and by July we should see a lot more large fruit than typical,” he said in the release. Welsh said there will be “huge” promotable volume between the end of June and the end of July.

Harvest for CMI is officially underway for the company’s very first crop of Skylar Rae cherries, according to the release.

“They are big, bright, blushing and sweet as can be,” Shane Marston, sales manager for CMI, said in the release.

CMI joined forces with Stemilt this year to grow and market Skylar Rae cherries, according to the release. The variety, originally discovered by the Toftness family in Washington, are available in a 1-pound clamshell or pouch bag, and supply is limited, according to the release.


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