California Cherry Shipments Taking Plunge Due to Rains

California Cherry Shipments Taking Plunge Due to Rains

Following the wettest May in memory, not only is the season getting a late start, but California cherry growers see fewer shipments due to rain-related fruit damage.

Chinchiolo Stemilt (Stockton) California, whose cherries are marketed by Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, WA., estimates the statewide cherry crop to be slashed 50 percent, or 5.25 million boxes, of the 10.5 million boxes estimated at the season’s start.

The company relates it may come in lower, depending on the condition of the fruit on the remaining trees.

Harvest of the bing variety, the state’s largest-volume cherry may suffer the most damage of any of the varieties.

Early season estimates for bings were 4.5 million cartons, which was conservative. The California cherry industry plans to continue packing into the middle of June, but volume is expected to be significantly reduced.

If the current rough estimate holds true, production would be close to the 6-year average of 6.5 million boxes. Quality cherries are predicted to be shipped from June 5 to the 20th, despite orchards having significant fruit damage.

El Camino Packing Inc. of Gilroy, CA., grows and packs cherries from about 200 acres. The operation is reported 20 to 40 percent of its early cherries being cracked because of excess rain. Later blocks appear to have less damage.