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US: Northwest cherries arriving at points worldwide

Temperatures across the Northwest have more-or-less consistently remained in the range for optimum growing, staying above dangerous cold thresholds and well-below the stifling highs that have been seen by now in some recent seasons. In terms of the crop, that translates into more time and energy the trees spend developing their fruit each and every day. " So while our earliest blocks were reporting a little less volume than estimated (due to greater than expected winter cold damage to the tree tissue), the quality, sugar and color of the first cherries have us all excited for the crop to come," explains James Michael from the Northwest Cherry Growers.

"It's important to note that like any year, the first few days of harvest in a growing area represent the fringe, and as such, are likely to be the most impacted by weather. In some years, there may be little to no difference. In a year like 2018 where temperatures danced around the frost line, it leaves behind a much fuzzier picture of the crop at hand. Fortunately, over the next few days we will progress further into the solid crop and will see steady shipments of both dark sweet and yellow cherries."

While it was only a handful of growers, there were enough out in the orchards to consider the 1st of June the first official day of the 2018 harvest. Most early growers began picking a few days later on the 4th or the 5th, with the earliest sheds starting their lines on Monday or Tuesday. "By Friday morning we had shipped just over 250,000 boxes, and coming out of the weekend we've shipped 758,769 boxes total. Historically, it's taken us as an industry between 10 and 14 days to build up to full velocity. The lighter set on the earliest fruit this year led us to believe we would see a slightly flattened curve for the first week, and then a quick ramp up around the 14th or 15th of the month."

"Based on the estimate, we expected some early fruit during the first week of June with Chelan volume ramping up significantly during the second week. Based on our visits to a few orchards and packing sheds today, that appears to be accurate. The Santinas, Chelans and Tietons we saw were all beautiful - certainly worth waiting for, as the growers well knew. Over the next few days, the earliest areas will transition into Bings while more of the Northwest digs into their dark-red, early season varieties."

"If the weather holds and the pre-season projections remain more or less accurate, we will see significant volumes available to retailers in time for their June ads...especially the June 27th-break prior to the Holiday. We're anticipating a first peak in shipments to occur around June 25th, with a solid shipping curve for several weeks until mid-July, peaking again during the transition between middle and late season districts somewhere near the 20th of July."

The Yakima Valley had an earlier start to the year, and has maintained that regional heat advantage as the Northwest progressed towards harvest. "We are watching four growing areas begin picking together, which will increase our industry's ability to meet the incredible retail and export demands we're also seeing."

"We are anticipating the ability to maintain extended Rainier retail promotions this season, as the estimate is projecting a strong Rainier crop of over 2 million boxes (15-pound). If the Round 1 estimate and the weather patterns hold, then it is shaping up to be a great year for Rainier exposure, with promotable volume easily stretching past National Rainier Cherry Day on the 11th of July."
"Note that GDD accumulation in later-producing districts like Parkdale, Brewster Flats and Wenatchee Heights is considerably behind the Northwest's early regions. In fact, the separation between early and late bloom is as large as we’ve seen in a decade. This strengthens the likelihood that we’ll see a solid late season opportunity this year. The current estimate projects nearly 2 million boxes to be shipped in August, which allows for several opportunities for retailers to promote. "Last Chance" and countdown-style promotions have shown in study after study to be the single most effective late season cherry promotion. The recipe for a strong final category push includes circular ads and P.O.P. messages which encourage consumers to buy while they can and freeze for off-season use."

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