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Northwest cherry harvest forecast brings hope

This year, Northwest cherry growers are optimistic about the upcoming harvest after facing challenges since the onset of the Covid pandemic. According to a forecast by Yakima-based Northwest Cherries, an estimated 17 to 18 million 20-pound boxes are expected from Washington and neighboring states. The organization, which promotes cherries from Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, indicates that Washington will produce approximately 85% of the forecasted 360,000,000 pounds. Harvesting is set to begin the first week of June, slightly ahead of the usual schedule, potentially overlapping with California's cherry season.

Cherry production involves strategic planting across various regions and altitudes to ensure a continuous supply throughout the summer. Despite a record cold and wet spring last year in California, resulting in a delayed and abundant harvest, Northwest growers faced market challenges when their peak season arrived. Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, highlighted the difficulties of selling cherries outside their peak season, leading to significant price drops for growers.

Northwest cherry growers have faced several consecutive challenging seasons due to international export restrictions, crop diseases, and extreme weather conditions. High temperatures in 2023 led to reduced yields, with some cherries not maturing and others being lost to heat. In response to these challenges, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered emergency loans to growers in Washington and Oregon.

With an earlier and shorter season expected, Northwest cherries, including Bings, Rainiers, and Chelans, will be available primarily in June and July. A January freeze has reduced the number of cherries expected in August. The region's cherries, preferred for their larger size by both domestic and foreign markets, may see up to 35% of the harvest exported. Growers are hopeful for a more favorable market this year, aiming for a profitable season.


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