Andre Bailey with Global Fruit on exports shifting to Asia

“Europe is slowing as an importer of Canadian cherries”

It is shaping up to be a nice cherry crop in British Columbia. “We’ve had beautiful weather during cell division,” says Andre Bailey with Global Fruit. “The fruit spacing on the tree is perfect for high-quality fruit and there are no clusters, but lots of single, double and triple cherries.” It is expected to be a lighter fruit set compared to last year’s record-year. British Columbia had huge crops in 2015 and 2016, as well as a massive crop in 2017. “This year, it will be closer to average, maybe a little less,” said Bailey. “The trees reset, they know how to take care of themselves.”

Shift to yellow varieties
Global Fruit expects to market about 16 million pounds of cherries this season, all BC-grown. This includes the company’s own production as well as volume from outside growers. “We grow 47 acres of our own production, including Honeycrisp apples and cherries that include Rainier and Stardust varieties. We are also commercially trialing two new Blush cherry varieties to be planted in 2019,” Bailey mentioned. The company has taken almost all red varieties out and is down to four acres, as a lot of customers are looking for yellow varieties to complement the traditional Canadian Red Cherries. “They are, however, very risky to grow. Birds love them, they split in the rain and they bruise incredibly easily. Our partner-growers are some of the best red cherry growers on the planet, so in our own farms we are switching to blush to be able to offer both to our customers. “

It is too early to tell the exact start date of harvest, but South Okanagan usually starts between June 25 and June 28. “We may be about four days early this year,” shared Bailey. Kelowna starts around July 18 and Creston about 10 days later. Picking usually finishes around August 27/28, but depending on the weather, it is easy to gain or lose five days. 

Asia is key export market
About 60 percent of Global Fruit’s cherries are distributed in Canada and the US. The remaining 40 percent is exported. “Back in 2007, we were predominantly a European exporter, but the focus has shifted to Asia. Europe is slowing as a cherry market for Canada,” Bailey said. Last year, less than eight percent of the company’s cherries went to Europe. The continent has been increasing its own cherry production and with this year’s harvest being late, they will harvest deep into August and overlap with Canada. The free trade agreement between Canada and the EU will make Canada more competitive, but in the short-term, Bailey doesn’t see exports to Europe expanding.

US-China relationship
The trade issues between the US and China will be resolved by the time Washington starts shipping, Bailey believes. “It’s a good thing, I wasn’t excited about the situation. Overall, it could have been an easy market for Canada in the short-term. However, it wouldn’t have been beneficial over a 3-5 year perspective,” Bailey remarked. “Trade wars create an artificial market with prices going up and the rest of the world having to absorb that additional volume that becomes available. For the industry as a whole, it is key to focus on growing high quality cherries. If people have a quality eating experience, they want to keep coming back. It only takes two bad experiences and they stop buying. Our best years are when Washington has high quality cherries. It makes people hungry for more and they want to keep buying them when BC is in season.”

For more information:
Andre Bailey
Global Fruit
Tel: (+1) 250-428-2320

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