Chilean cherries came out of the gate with “their best foot forward.” This is how Ricky Armata of C&J Brothers describes the start of the Chilean cherry season which produced “triple jumbo code” cherries.
“I’ve never seen such beautiful early fruit out of Chile or Peru in my life,” says Armata. “They generally do an excellent job of picking the Rainier cherries at the right time for great color and size. They’ve perfected that over the last 10 years.”
The season out of Chile started on time this year. “Supplies are tight right now. After Thanksgiving, you’ll start seeing more and more product availability,” says Armata. On this strong crop, he does note that there is more availability this year compared to last.
As for demand, it’s grossly exceeding supply. “Cherries are a fruit that doesn’t overlap sections like a lot of other fruit does. There are very definitive starts and finishes whether it be California, Washington, Chile,” Armata says. “There are big gaps so usually the first cherries see big demand, even at high prices. Retailers will invest money in them because they’ll bring a lot more traffic into the produce department.”
Quality-oriented product pushing demand
The fruit is also an item that is quality oriented which in turn spurs demand. “Price is always secondary with cherries. It’s a luxury fruit to begin with so people who spend money on them, they want a good taste in their mouth. They want crunchy and sweet and you keep going back as long as the quality is there,” says Armata.
As for pricing, it’s relatively on track with where it has been in the last five to six years which is FOB$65-$70, largely attributed to the air freight used to ship the fruit.
Premium air-flown cherries generally come continuously throughout the season, particularly from Argentina. Armata notes that the Argentinean cherries are closer to the cherries U.S. consumers might be more accustomed to coming out of the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, ocean-shipped cherries are also available through the season on the later varieties of fruit which are firmer cherries and can handle the ocean trip.