Following last year’s troublesome season, which was plagued by rain and wind, Greek cherry growers are more optimistic about the coming campaign, with harvesting set to begin at the end of May.
“There have been no issues so far,” says George Kallitsis of exporter Proto. “We expect to produce around 5,000 tonnes, with a peak of 7-10 lorries a day between mid-June and mid-July.”
Last year, the company managed just 4,000 tonnes, with only 60 per cent reaching class 1 standard.
“We aim for over 80 per cent, but with cherries there is rarely a normal season,” says Kallitsis. “Last year, we had frost in April, the quality was affected and the season finished early. We were lucky to have invested in a new cherry sorter, which was able to efficiently sort the good fruit from the bad.”
Although the company is not introducing any new varieties, Proto continues to encourage its growers to produce more Regina, Skeena, Cordia and Sweetheart, varieties that offer proven quality, firm fruit and good taste characteristics.
“The bulk of the volume is Greek variety Bakirtzeika,” says Kallitsis. “It is a good variety, but consumers are demanding firmer and firmer fruit, and there are better varieties available.”
For the coming campaign, Proto is focusing more on the German market through its collaboration with retailer Lidl.
“Last year was the first time the chain received Greek cherries in such volumes, and they are keen to receive a larger volume this year,” says Kallitsis. “We have a good position in the Netherlands as well. The UK and Italy remain good markets, while we are also trying to expand in Scandinavia.”