With the recent warm spell on the West Coast, cherries in the Pacific Northwest look to be in a better position than a week ago. “It looks like we’re getting to peak volumes sooner than we thought and there are signs of positivity that retail will have supplies of cherries for the 4th of July holiday. It’s more than we would have anticipated, even just two weeks ago,” says Dan Davis with Starr Ranch Growers.
Indeed, a cold spring caused a very late bloom in Washington and Oregon and the start of the season was anticipated to be later than usual. “We were really fearful about what our timing would be and if we would have any volumes at all for any 4th of July promotional period. However we’ve had that very good weather in the last 10 days and the forecast is looking to continue as such,” says Davis.
At this point, picking should start on a smaller scale between June 16-18 and by June 20-22, full production will be underway. While initial estimates thought Pacific Northwest cherries would go into September, the recent hot weather means cherries are now anticipated to finish by the third week of August. In terms of volume, it’s looking to be a good-sized crop following last year, which had growers and shippers pack a crop half the size of what was packed the previous year.
California to PNW
The warmth also means there could be less of a crossover between Pacific Northwest cherries and California cherries, which also got a late start this season. “There may be some overlap with California but day by day, it’s looking to be less volume that crosses over,” says Davis. California should wrap up generally around June 20th with the last week of the month trickling down in supply. “It should set up for a pretty reasonable handoff from California to the northwest. We’re waiting and seeing and we hope they have great weather and no bumps in the road and that they finish strong with nice quality cherries and hand us a retail market where consumers are gobbling up cherries as fast as possible,” he says.
Meanwhile retailers are more than welcoming the cherry season. “They are looking for a bright spot and cherries are the driver for the summer for retail dollars to get people into the department and help celebrate holidays. They want to promote and build around cherries and get people into their produce departments. There hasn’t been much that exciting as of late with calamity after calamity on commodities so we’re hoping cherries can provide produce the shot in the arm it needs,” adds Davis.
Lower pricing than 2022
As for pricing, it’s likely to be reasonable to help keep movement steady. “Pricing will be less than last year by a lot and it won’t return to historic numbers, just the economics of it now. I think we’ll see a lot of retailers in that $1.99-$3.99/lb pricing,” says Davis.
It’s all good news for growers and shippers following a challenging 2022 season. “That season presented a lot of doom and gloom in many ways for our growers in terms of lower volumes and some horticulture issues with the weather that didn’t leave the best growing season last year,” says Davis. “We look forward to this great growing season and getting back to the momentum we need for our grower partners.”