U.S.: Slow start for California cherry season

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U.S.: Slow start for California cherry season

Cold spring weather has led to a slower than normal start for the California cherry season, according to a representative of Stemilt Growers.

Communications manager Brianna Shales said that a combination of factors had affected the crop, which is expected to come in at around 3.5-4 million boxes. 

That would put it at less than half the level of last year's almost 9 million boxes.

"It is a big drop from last year, but we also have to remember that last year was a record crop," Shales said.

She added that harvests this year were running later than in a normal season

"That’s probably the biggest thing we’re seeing right now. It’s been a slower start to the season, and so while we thought that by the end of this week that we would be in peak, it’s been pushed off a few days because of cooler weather."

Stemilt is still harvesting its early varieties like Brooks and Coral, with its peak volumes expected to come from next week until around May 23. The industry will likely continue to peak through June 2 with the Bing variety coming on in heavier volumes in late May, Shales said.

Transition to Northwestern supply

She also expects a smooth transition to Northwestern supply, especially given California's lighter crop.

"Washington will start up late in the first week of June, and that will be good timing for the retailers. I think that demand will probably exceed supply for Washington in the month of June but then in July we will have promotable volumes."

Washington's crop also looks set to be lighter than last year's bumper crop.

Last season the Pacific Northwest shipped over 26 million boxes, thanks in part to good fruit set across the varieties and a lack of adverse weather.

At the Global Cherry Summit held in Chile in April, Northwest Cherries president B.J. Thurlby said there had been cold weather in the region over recent months.

“We’ve had pretty cold weather. We had some nice warm weather in February and then it just dropped, so we’re going to start late again this year, I’m thinking around the 6th of June," he said in late April.

“Only half of our growing districts have pollinated, but we’ve had this windy, cold, rainy weather through pollination and I’m thinking if we had 22 or 23 million boxes this year in the Northwest then that should be a pretty good crop for us based on the pollination and weather.”

He said in the absence of any big rainfall events, the total West Coast crop could be between 27-28 million boxes in 2018.


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