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The Northern Hemisphere's cherry harvest has started well, even up to 10 to 15 days earlier in some European countries. This has also led to the season ending much earlier than usual for certain cherry varieties. As a large grower and exporter of this fruit, some Spanish growers are seeing better prospects this season compared to last year when rain affected the crop badly.

The picota, a variety of cherry originating from the Jerte Valley in Spain, that is in high demand in their local and export markets, begins in mid-June. A huge demand for Turkish cherries is expected due to shortages in several countries. However, weather challenges remain a big concern together with higher input costs.

In Italy's Apulia region, the cherry season, which started in the first week of April, saw yields fall by up to 60% due to a lack of supply caused by the mild winter weather and the low need for chilling hours for the plants, forcing operators to end sales some 20 days early. Increasing supply from local sources in Germany, as well as Turkey, followed by Spain and Greece is leading to a decrease in prices for some traders. Cherries grown in southern Germany under cover seem to be fine at first glance after some rain. Hungary had a good season with stable local and European market demand and prices.

Growers in Hungary have about 10 days to go until the end of their season. France had a difficult and delayed start to their harvest season due to rain. Now the situation has reversed with abundant supply meeting non-existent consumption. In the Netherlands there are plots where more than half of the trees are dead due to excess water in fields from the rain. The drop has been extreme with lower volumes, as a result it is almost certain that cherries will remain at a premium price. Due to low fruit-set between 65-70% of a normal crop is expected in the United Kingdom. In Uzbekistan the Spring rain and cool weather affected the quality of cherries and led to a later start to the season.

In North America, the cherry crop transitions to Washington from California for exports. Cooler weather has slowed the sizing of fruit, with export volumes affected. A late winter in South Africa means cherry areas in the Western Cape are behind with cold unit accumulation that could be telling in the new season. Chile's cherry trees are in winter rest, but growers are closely watching new cherry variety developments under different growing conditions in Spain and Europe to learn from them. China's cherry yield is the highest while the fruit sizes are the largest they have been in recent years. However, the higher production volume is driving the price down by 25%.

Spain: Picota joins the Spanish campaign in June
With the advance of summer in June, volumes increased in the cherry fruit campaign in the different producing areas. In Aragon, as it was announced by the autonomy, a decrease in the harvest is expected as a result of the weather during the fruit setting period. "There has been an irregular setting that has affected the early varieties more, and the cold of spring and the fact that the trees have generally been very loaded, have made a certain lack of caliber noticeable, but with the quality as always," an operator from Zaragoza highlights.

In Extremadura, the other major cherry-producing region in the country, the campaign is developing notably better than last year, when unfortunately continuous rains were decisive in the decrease in the harvest. At this time, with the picota (cherry without peduncle) campaign having just begun, there have been episodes of storms whose damage has not yet been evaluated, but which could have affected only "the fruit that was going to be distributed in the markets during the following days". "Facing the beginning of the second half of June, the lots with damage due to excess humidity will begin to dissipate."

It should be noted that the picota, a variety of cherry originating from the Jerte Valley that is highly demanded in both the national and export markets, begins in mid-June. "This is fundamental because one of the most important conflicts of the Jerte Cereza PDO is that every year, we find in the market cherries from which the stem is removed to pass them off as picotas, and they are marketed as Jerte picotas using illegally the DOP mark for fruit that is neither authentic picotas nor has it been certified and authorized by the Regulatory Council of the denomination to be recognized with that mark. For this reason, whoever in May believes that he is consuming picotas, what he is consuming is are de-stemmed cherries, because in Spain, there are only Jerte picotas from mid-June."

Turkey: Huge demand for Turkish cherries expected due to shortages in several countries
A Turkish cherry season with both good yield and quality is expected, with high volumes anticipated to have arrived since early June. Competition for cherries actually varies depending on the market. Turkish cherry exporters mainly face US competition in South East Asia. For exports to the EU, Greece and Spain stand out as main players, due to their competitive advantage in terms of logistics. Russia, which has been the second-largest export market for Turkish cherries last season, inevitably draws competition from all Turkish companies. Italy and France also come along from time to time in specific markets.

A huge demand for Turkish cherries is expected, compared to previous years, because there are shortages of cherries in several countries. Although everything is looking good at the moment, the weather conditions will remain a major challenge for Turkish cherry exporters. The economic situation Turkish exporters are in affects production costs a lot and the increase in costs makes their job difficult in this competitive environment.

Italy: Apulia yields fall by 60%, lowest supply in 30 years
In Apulia, the cherry season, which started in the first week of April, saw yields fall by up to 60% due to a lack of supply caused by the mild winter weather and the low need for chilling hours for the plants, forcing operators to end sales some 20 days early. One leading company in the sector described the situation as the lowest supply in 30 years. However, the lack of rain and high humidity during the harvest months allowed growers to achieve better quality than in previous years, with fruit of excellent size and flavour.

A grower from Campania explains: "This year's cherry campaign was characterised by insignificant quantities produced, but with satisfactory prices. Although we marketed a third of our production, producer prices remained quite high at 3-4 €/kg. The low production did not allow us to meet market demand. This is a general situation that affects the main Italian production areas, but also extends to Europe. The lack of production is due to climate change".

A major cherry grower in Emilia Romagna says the harvest came in at least 10-15 days earlier than normal. He says it has never happened that the Kordia harvest ended on 11 June. Prices have always been high for cherries of the right size and Brix grade. In recent days, cherries of size 26-28 have fetched between 4 and 6 €/kg at the wholesale level. At the end of May, wholesale prices were as high as 9-10 €/kg. There were no catastrophic weather events in his area, so the harvest went fairly smoothly.

In Veneto, the crop suffered heavy losses due to the bad weather. A fruit and vegetable trader in Verona says that the rain has affected the crop so far. As a result, prices are higher and sales are targeted at Italian retailers and a few customers in Austria. The campaign started in the last week of May and will last until the first 10 days of July. The hope is to increase yields and the size of the fruit.

Germany: Increasing supply leads to decrease in prices
Spanish goods predominated, followed by Turkish shipments in terms of importance. Greece and Germany participated with almost equal quantities. Italian batches completed the current supply, which had recently been joined by French and Belgian offers.

Overall, the supply had expanded; it was sufficient to cover demand. As a result of this increased supply, some traders were forced to decrease their prices. At wholesale markets, Turkish Napoleons were offered at around €3 per kg. In Hamburg, traders were offering the first domestic cherries up to €9 per kg.

In southern Germany, initial harvest estimates are very positive despite heavy rainfall in recent weeks. Consequently, the vast majority of cherries in the Lake Constance area are grown under cover, so at first glance the damage does not seem to be too bad. Unlike previous years, it is therefore assumed that serious volumes can also be delivered to domestic retail this year. Nevertheless, cherry production is under pressure from increasing competition from Eastern Europe. Last year, Moldovan cherries were offered in domestic retail for the first time during the German harvest season.

Moldova: Promising cherry season lies ahead
A promising season for Moldovan cherries lies ahead as more and more companies are preparing to export to the rest of Europe. These growers and exporters are obtaining the needed certifications, while improving their infrastructure to be able to handle and export to provide better supply to markets like Germany.

Hungary: Good season with stable market demand
Growers in Hungary are now into the last part of the cherry harvest with about 7 to 10 days to go until the end of the season. Reasonably good volumes were achieved this year, estimated to be around 12,000 tons, with very little frost damage, which was a major issue last year.

The local and export market was not bad for Hungarian cherries, with good demand from their neighbouring European countries. These include Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, "who all had good demand and prices, that were reasonable," notes a grower and exporter.

France: Difficult and delayed harvest due to rain
Although the cherry season in France was expected to start really earlier this year, rain and cool spring temperatures ultimately delayed the harvest. A difficult start to the campaign due to capricious weather, with rainfall causing a lot of damage and losses.

After a difficult start to the French campaign, which was hampered by a lack of supply, the situation has completely reversed. Last week, all the production basins collided, resulting in an abundant supply of cherries that came up against virtually non-existent consumption, due to bad weather and the end of the month. Supply was therefore far too great for demand, and prices evolved accordingly. Whereas they were very high 3 weeks ago, they dropped a fortnight ago and continued to fall until last Tuesday.

Since last Wednesday, the market has once again turned completely upside down: prices have risen, demand has intensified (perhaps thanks to the arrival of fine weather), and wholesale markets have been very dynamic, so that supply has struggled to keep up with demand. Since the start of the week, the market has been rising a little more each day. A positive situation for the cherry market at present.

Netherlands: Few full plots, good prices for cherries
This year, it can clearly be seen which cherry trees are planted on top-quality soil. There are plots where more than half of the trees are dead. Wherever water remains on the land from the abundant rain, the impact on the cherries is evident. This is particularly so in areas with wetter soils, where the drop has been extreme, resulting in few plots with full yields. Growers doubt whether there will be more cherries this year than in the disastrous season of last year. Consequently, it is almost certain that cherries will remain at a premium price. Currently, top-quality cherries are commanding excellent prices.

Belgium: Not many cherries, but quality is fine
In Belgium, the cherry season officially kicked off this week. The fruit has been available under glass for a while, but now supply is slowly but surely starting to hit the market from open field cultivation. "Quantitatively, it is not very much, but qualitatively it looks promising. The early varieties still suffered a bit from the abundant moisture, but overall we still expect a good season," reports a Belgian trader. "Moreover, it is also already in high demand. It is a seasonal product, which is always enthusiastically received and we see that now too. Cherries are quite sought after in Belgium, but France and the Netherlands, for example, are also important markets for us. There is competition from Greece, Turkey and recently Moldova, but I still think we can distinguish ourselves in quality," notes the trader.

"Besides our own supply, the Belgian market also receives a fair amount of Spanish and French cherries, which are still traded at good prices. However, we don't see these countries as much competition for Belgian supply, as many opt for local product anyway, when available."

United Kingdom: 65-70% of a normal crop expected due to low fruit-set
The UK cherry harvest was looking very positive earlier in the year, with potential for a full crop and an early start of 7-10 days. This has failed to materialise as temperatures during blossom only reached 10-11 degrees, which is not warm enough to get the bees out and moving around. Also, although there were enough chill hours through winter, the temperature didn't get low enough for optimum fruit production.

As a result the fruit set was lower, and growers are now predicting 65-70% of a normal crop. The timing will also be more in keeping with a normal season. The Kordia and Regina varieties need those cold hours in the winter and the early ripening varieties will also be affected.

Uzbekistan: Spring rain and cool weather affect cherry quality
The quality of cherries were affected by an unusually rainy and cool spring. It also led to delays in fruit ripening and thus later start to their season. The main growing areas in the Fergana Valley will be very short as the later cherries had an unusually earlier start. Prices are lower as well.

North America: Cherry crop transitions to Washington from California for exports
The supply of cherries for export is transitioning from California crop to Washington crop. The transition is happening as expected, though the weather has been cooler in California until recently and the fruit hasn't come on in size like the export markets would like to see.

Because of that, the export volume hasn't been there. That means there's not too much of the direct crossover with early Chelan cherries coming from Washington. Add to that the fact that the Pacific Northwest has also been quite cool which also means the early varieties (such as Chelan) are just coming in.

Washington exports are expected to be strong through this month, and July is expected to be full of activity. As for demand, there may be more pressure on Pacific Northwest cherry supply this season given British Columbia's largely lack of crop following a freeze earlier this year. On pricing, initially, the big sizes for export were expensive.

South Africa: Late winter impacting on cold units
"The winter has been VERY late," says a cherry grower, "and cherry areas in the Western Cape are year-to-date behind with its cold unit accumulation. The late winter will definitely have a big impact on all stone fruit and cherries in some of the warmer areas."

Another grower confirms that cherry orchards had had very little cold by the end of May. The cold of last week was welcomed by all stone fruit growers. "But we're still hoping for a much colder Cape winter so that cherries can have a good season next year."

South Africa exported 293,892 cartons (2.5kg equivalent) of cherries during the 2023/2024 season, slightly down on the previous season's 312,622 cartons, mostly between weeks 41 to 51. The airfreight proportion was higher this year because of the perennial troubles at the port of Cape Town: 79% of South Africa's cherries were flown out, versus 55% during the 2022/2023 season.

The United Kingdom remains the largest buyer of South African cherries, taking 55% of export volumes, followed by the Middle East (17%) and Europe (15%). Just over 10% of the South African cherry export crop went to the Far East and small volumes to Russia as well.

Chile: Winter rest, watching new cherry variety developments in Spain
As the Chilean cherry trees are in winter rest, all eyes are on the Spanish and Europe industry to learn and see how the different and new varieties will perform. Collaboration between breeders, evaluators and growers in Chile and Europe are ongoing, tracking the performance of cherry varieties under different growing conditions. An evaluator in Chile said that the model for the industry is to focus on breeding systems, post-harvest technologies and varietal choice.

If it was not for the rain early in the 2023-2024 season, Chile would have exceeded the total of 413,979 tons that have been shipped to various global markets. Exports to China, including Hong Kong, have reached a new record, with 377,000 tons, 3.3% more than the previous season. The U.S. is Chile's second biggest cherry export market.

China: Increase in the domestic production, price about 25% lower than last year
In late May, open-field cherries, produced in Dalian, China, began to enter the market in batches. Favorable weather conditions and an increase in planting areas have led to a significant rise in cherry production this year.

This year's cherry yield is the highest in recent years, and the fruit size is also the largest we've seen recently. With the increase in production, prices have dropped, and the purchase price is about 25% lower than last year.

Currently, there are not many air-freighted cherries from the United States, and fewer traders are selling them. Some traders mentioned that the current prices are high, and they might start selling in one to two weeks. The earliest batch of 5KG products arrived at about ¥1,000 per piece, gradually dropping to ¥850-900 per piece. Some of the more ripened batches sold for about ¥700.

Next week's topic: Melons