Cherry growers in the Yakima Valley and the Pacific Northwest haven’t seen much weather damage so far this season.
“Weather patterns could not be more favorable for quality fruit,” Northwest Cherry Growers officials declared in a crop update released Thursday.
That’s a welcome surprise, considering concerns that the harvest of this year’s crop would start late due to cold and snowy conditions earlier this year. Warming temperatures in late May quickened production and eliminated the anticipated delay, and harvest began earlier this month.
Windy and rainy conditions in recent weeks haven’t dampened the crop outlook, either.
“I’m not hearing of any major reduction in pack-outs, which would be the big indicator if we had too much damage,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Northwest Cherry Growers, a Yakima-based organization that represents growers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah.
In Thursday’s update, the Northwest Cherry Growers now estimate this year’s crop at 23.85 million 20-pound boxes. That’s lower than the 24.9 million box estimate from last month. The estimate would still make this year’s crop the third-largest ever.
As of Tuesday, 6.3 million boxes have been shipped this month. With daily shipments peaking at around 600,000 now, Northwest Cherry Growers estimates that 9.4 million boxes will have been shipped in June.
“Demand for the fruit is outstanding this week, with most shippers oversold and hoping for more fruit to sell,” Thurlby said.
Northwest Cherry Growers says it expects daily shipments to drop after the first few days of July, then return to the 500,000 mark by the middle of next month.
There will be some cherries shipped in early August due to late-harvest varieties, but shipments aren’t expected to go through the month.