With about a month to go, countdown to California cherry harvest has started. Early districts and varieties are past full bloom, but it is very early to make any predictions. “Harvest at our company is expected to start around April 26,” says Kyle Persky with Rivermaid Trading Company. He also notes that there may be some early varieties in other growing districts that start a little earlier. Volume should ramp up around Mother’s Day, the second week of May.
No bumper crop
What are the expectations of this year’s crop? “Some areas have had a nice bloom and show potential, other areas have been described as spotty,” Persky commented. “We certainly do not expect a bumper crop, but we are cautiously optimistic we will have promotional volumes of cherries this season, particularly for the Memorial Day ad period, starting around May 10.” California saw rainfall as recent as last week, but at this point, the rain doesn’t have an impact on the crop yet. “The bees don’t like to work in the rain, so sustained precipitation could cause pollination issues,” he said. “However, a couple days of showers don’t have a negative impact.”
Bees enjoying cherry blossoms.
Looking back at last season
Persky reflects on last year and how the impact of COVID caused a lot of consternation ahead of the 2020 California cherry season. “Some retailers were more conservative, not knowing if customers would purchase a higher ring item like cherries.” However, with retail sales having shown strong numbers throughout the pandemic, Persky is more optimistic about demand this year, both domestic and overseas. Although the majority of the company’s cherries is distributed in the US and Canada, about 30 percent is exported overseas, primarily to Southeast Asia.
Rivermaid is among the top four handlers of cherries in the Golden state, by volume. “We’ve been able to grow our market share substantially in recent years,” Persky commented. Most recently, the company reached an agreement with Camera Brothers in Stockton, CA to pack and market their fruit. The two companies had already been working together for many years with Rivermaid marketing a good portion of the cherries that Camera used to pack themselves. This partnership involves a significant increase in the company’s market share.