Assessments were still being made Friday, but it appears that Thursday’s rainfall shaved off more of the 2013 cherry crop, which had already struggled with rain, some frost and poor pollination weather.
“We will take a look this weekend. That will be the real indicator,” said James Michael, promotion director for the Washington State Fruit Commission.
On top of rain in early June and again earlier this week, rain fell for several hours Thursday.
Rain amounts Thursday ranged from 0.02 inches in Cowiche to 0.17 inches near Grandview, according to the Washington State University agricultural weather network.
All stations in the Yakima and Benton county network recorded some rain Thursday. Rain is especially dangerous in late spring in early summer, when it can cause ripened fruit to split and lose its value.
Keith Mathews, president and chief executive officer for First Fruits Marketing of Yakima, said it will take a while to ascertain the impact of the rain.
“I think it will take time to tell. The only report I had was that we had some rain through Prosser, but it was felt it wasn’t enough to damage anything. Growers are going to wait one day to dry out,” he said.
First Fruits, the marketing arm for Broetje Orchards of Prescott, normally ships about 500,000 boxes of cherries. This year’s volume will be reduced because of the bad weather.
Morgan Rowe of Rowe Farms, which has orchards in the Zillah-Buena area and near Naches, said there was some new damage to Bing cherries.
He said crews will pick some Bings today to get a better idea of how much damage was caused.
“We can try to sort the heck out of it, take a sample to the warehouse and decide if we should continue on or call it good,” he said.
The news is better for Rainier cherries, which came through a better shape. Some additional field sorting may be necessary, he said.
Later-ripening varieties in the Upper Valley have so far escaped damage.
A preseason estimate of more than 18 million boxes for fresh shipment had been reduced to about 17 million boxes before this week’s rains. The earlier damage cut into the harvest of early varieties.
About 1.4 million boxes of cherries had been shipped to market as of early this week. Fruit that has been shipped is commanding good prices. The federal Agricultural Marketing Service reported Thursday that prices for large-size cherries are ranging from $58 to $65 per box.
Wapato grower Dick Cowin said he had too much damage in his early Chelan and Santina varieties to make harvest worthwhile. He said he will pick a sample of his Bing cherries next week to see if there is enough good fruit to harvest. He was not optimistic.
“It’s been a combination of everything. This is a one time in 20 years perfect storm. The frost got a bit. We had bad pollination weather where the bees couldn’t work, and we had all this rain.
“We are just looking for a better year next year,” he added.