Vanguard is pleased to provide an update on cherries out of California and the Pacific Northwest (PNW) of the United States.
California cherry seasons have experienced ups and downs these past few years. After a near record of 9.5 million boxes of California cherries were produced in 2017, there were only 4 million boxes in 2018 due to freezing conditions during bloom. In 2019, the season was marred by record rains in May, which diminished the harvest to 5.25 million boxes – about half of the year’s original forecast. This year, for the 2020 season, while “Tule” fogs may impact growth, California is expected to increase cherry shipments.
The California crop will pick up to promotable volumes May 8th-15th for the early peak and then we will see the 2nd peak on the Bing variety around May 18th and will move through the end of the season. The California crop should go through the first full week of June with some overlap with the PNW crop.
The Industry estimate for California is 6.7 million boxes, but most growers believe production will be short of this number. Why? Some of the sets between varieties are a little lighter than projected. Growers are also seeing a few more doubles and spurs. According to Rivermaidcherry growers, the lighter overall fruit set will yield larger fruit size. They estimate that at least two thirds of fruit harvested with be 10.5 row and larger.
There is less known and estimated about the PNW cherry harvest just yet.
Harvest is expected to start the first week of June.
No official industry estimates have been made, although it has been speculated that between 16-22 million boxes of cherries will be produced. Although, there may be some reduced volumes due to Little Cherry Disease and an early frost in some locations.
Exporting cherries from the United States
China has lowered tariffs on California cherries from 55% to 25% – giving greater market access and hopefully financial reward to growers who are exporting cherries to China. Growers are optimistic for domestic North American demand, as very few cherries are sold to the foodservice industry, which has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 closures. Reports suggest that retailers in Canada and the United States are eager to “talk cherries” as they wish to boost sales on fresh commodities.
In recent years, export markets have received over 35% of the cherry crop out of the PNW. According to Keith Hu, who represents growers in the PNW as their Vice President of International Business Development, growers are optimistic about market demand in their traditional export regions of China, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam. These regions have been handling the pandemic very well, and businesses are beginning to reopen, creating opportunities for air shipments. The low cost of fuel should help growers deliver fruit at competitive prices to importers this summer.