A Northwest Cherry Growers' estimate of the season continues to hold at 23-million 20-pound-box equivalents. ( File photo )

(CORRECTED June 6) An updated crop estimate from the Northwest Cherry Growers shows initial estimates of 23 million 20-pound box equivalents should hold true, with harvest of the Chelan variety starting on June 4.

In a news release on the crop outlook the cherry growers’ group outlined significant takeaways for June:

  • About 9 million boxes should ship in June, more than the 7.7 million boxes in June 2017, and  fourth overall behind the 2014-16 seasons;
  • Warm weather in the Yakima Valley continues to keep that harvest ahead, meaning that in mid-June, four northwest cherry regions will be shipping at one time; and
  • Ample fruit should be available for June 20 ads, with full volume ready to support the June 27 ads leading to July 4th.

“We're anticipating a first peak in shipments to occur around June 25th, with a solid shipping curve for several weeks until mid-July, peaking again during the transition between middle and late season districts somewhere near the 20th of July,” according to the release.

Orchard checks confirmed fewer flowers per bud on trees, meaning fewer cherries, but those cherries will be larger, according to the release. That includes all varieties.

Rainier variety promotions could be extended this season, according to the release, with an estimated production of more than 2 million 15-pound cartons. If estimated weather patterns hold, promotable volume will easily go beyond National Ranier Cherry Day on July 11.

The group notes that the separation between the early and late bloom is as large as in the past decade, meaning solid late-season opportunities for retailers, with almost two million boxes shipping in late August.

“‘Last chance’ and countdown style promotions have shown in study after study to be the single-most effective the single-most effective late season cherry promotion,” according to the release. “The recipe for a strong final category push includes circular ads and (point-of-purchase) messages which encourage consumers to buy while they can and freeze for off-season use.”

The release suggests that retailers start the season prepared to capture sales from “light” cherry shoppers, who typically buy only one bag a season. But that translates into a 65% increase in cherry dollar sales once they begin to buy, according to the release. That’s why it’s important to let all shoppers know the season has begun, with eye-catching displays, according to the release.

(Note on correction: The story originally misreported the rainier variety estimate.)