by Northwest Cherry Growers
Northwest cherry shipments are on pace for a strong start in June.
About 22.6 million (20-pound equivalent) boxes are forecast to be shipped this season. The 2018 crop on the trees gives every indication of a fantastic season to come for growers, truckers and retailers alike.
In 2015 and 2016, we shipped for at least a week in the month of May. Last season (2017) we didn’t begin shipping until the eighth of June. Based on individual grower records of bloom timing in the Tri-Cities district, one of our earliest producing areas, they expect some early fruit during the first week of June with Chelan volume ramping up during the second week. There is weather and time yet to happen between now and the start of harvest, but if all of these patterns continue we will still expect to see significant volumes in June, especially the June 27th break prior to the Fourth of July holiday.
Every tree is different, but there are several trends noted across varieties and growing areas. In general, bloom this season was well spread throughout the trees. “Snowball” bloom, or heavy clusters of flowers, were less prevalent. The flower count per bud has also been closer to normal, 2-to-3 flowers, as compared to last year’s 4-to-6 flowers. Fewer flowers per bud typically translates into more energy distributed into fewer cherries per tree.
After bloom finishes, the next stage of the estimate waiting game begins….from Rainiers in the Orondo area to Chelans in Pasco. However, it takes several weeks after bloom finishes before growers can determine what will “stick” on the trees…in other words, which flowers were pollinated and will turn into cherries. Most commercial varieties will drop what they’re going to by the pit hardening stage, typically two to three weeks after bloom, but some cherries like the Chelan can “drop” all the way up to harvest.
Washington is shipping nearly 3200 truck load equivalents of apples weekly – grossing about $7000 to New York City.