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Lighter cherry crops forecast in western USA

West Coast sweet cherry crops appear to be somewhat lighter this year, with California halfway through harvest and Washington about to start. California began picking April 25 and had packed and shipped 3.4 million, 18-pound boxes as of May 19 of an estimated total crop of 6 million boxes, said Chris Zanobini, executive director of the California Cherry Advisory Board in Sacramento.

California anticipated a 10 million-box crop last year but ended up with slightly over 5 million after rain destroyed half. The record is 9.6 million boxes in 2017. The average of the last 10 years is 7.1 million.

“We’re doing great. There’s been no significant rain damage that I know of and prices are good and demand is steady,” Zanobini said.

Export demand is good but the percentage of exports is down due to less available air freight, he said. That’s apparently due to economic fallout from COVID-19.

Northwest Cherry Growers, in Yakima, Wash., is forecasting a 20.2-million, 20-pound-box Northwest crop, down from 23.3 million boxes last year and the record 26.4 million boxes in 2017. The 10-year average is 22.8 million boxes.

Washington typically accounts for 85% of the five-state crop that includes Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. Harvest usually begins about June 7 near Mattawa or Pasco, Wash., but will be early this year, on about May 28.

“A generally warm January and February gave our crop one of the earliest starts, but since then relatively cool weather has tempered progression,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers.


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