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US cherry season in transition

The California cherry industry is reporting a successful campaign as the season winds down, while the Northwest deal is ramping up with high hopes of a record year

US cherry season in transition

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The California cherry industry is putting the final touches on what appears to have been a very successful season. As of 21 June, total packed volume was approaching 8.3m cartons (8.2 kg), according to the California Cherry Advisory Board (CCAB), and may end up pushing the all time record of 8.67m cartons set just last year.

“We should hit 8.5m cartons before we’re through,” Jim Culbertson of the CCAB told “Fruit quality has generally been quite good this year – maybe a little weak at the start of the season with the Brooks and Tulare (varieties), but we more than made up for it with the Bings later on. There is still some exporting going on but the industry will be pretty much finished this week – which should make for a smooth transition to the Northwest.”

The Northwest season is already well under way with the majority of the early varieties packed and the first of the Bings beginning to trickle in from the orchards.

“The quality of this year’s Bing crop is probably the best I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been in the business,” said David Martin of Stemilt Growers. “The Rainiers are also outstanding. Everything is in place for this to be one of the best industry seasons ever.”

“We could see as much as 25m packed cartons this year,” said one salesperson from a major industry grower-shipper. “It’s still early yet, but virtually every one of our growers are revising their initial estimates.”

Northwest Cherry Growers’ BJ Thurlby is more skeptical of seeing such bumper volumes, however. “I’ll believe that (figure) when I see it,” he told “We’ve done three industry surveys and each one has come in at around 18m cartons.”

Amid the speculation over volumes, Randy Eckert of Yakima Fresh points out that quality will be the key factor in deciding the outcome of the deal.

“A 20m-plus (carton) crop is not out of the question,” he said. “That kind of volume won’t be a problem to sell, however, if we’ve got quality fruit. And from what I’ve seen so far, the quality is definitely there."

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