Optimistic. That’s the view right now of the California cherry season that will get underway at the end of April.
“We’re optimistic based on a very good chill season,” says Nick Lucich of Delta Packing Co. “We’ve accumulated above what we had last year on chill in all the major growing districts. There are key ingredients we need for a successful season and the number one ingredient is chill with a good winter where the trees get a good rest.”
Couple that with the strong precipitation California saw in both December and January. “We’re filling the reservoirs and getting good groundwater. We’re also getting a lot of snow pack in the Sierras for water for late summer so that’s very very good,” says Lucich.
California is also coming off a lighter 2022 cherry crop where it had roughly 50 percent of the crop and packed just over 5.2 million boxes. That’s down from the over 10 million boxes it packed in 2021, which was a record year. “The thinking is this year the trees may have stored up some energy from last year,” he says. “The state’s potential is 10 million+ boxes if every growing district has a good yield. For the last 10 years, it was about 6.5-7 million boxes on average so right now we’re just calling this an above-average crop.”
Usual start time
That said, last year also saw an earlier start to the season following a dry, warm January. This year’s potential start on April 25 would be five to seven days later or hitting a more “normal” start to the season.
On the demand side, expectations are that demand will be good and Lucich is already speaking with retailers about their upcoming California cherry plans. The challenge, he notes, will be to set cherry pricing that factors in inflation on both sides of the equation--for growers, with those increased costs and for consumers with notably tighter wallets this year.
Export also looks promising though, even with international challenges such as Chinese tariffs and an increasingly competitive Japan. “Japan used to be the king of cherries with exporting but they’ve become more price-sensitive. There’s also been a slight decline over the past few years,” he says. “However South Korea is a market that continues to grow and Canada looks good as well. Canada was about 43 percent of our export market last year. Our export total was just over 20 percent or just over a million boxes.”
With the season getting underway two months from now, the tone, for now, is cautiously optimistic. “We’re far from harvest and we still need a lot of crucial things to happen. However we’re optimistic that some of the key ingredients we need are getting met,” says Lucich.
For more information:
Delta Packing Co. of Lodi
Ph: +1 (209) 334-1023