Weather cuts into Northwest cherries again

07/02/2013 03:23:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Another round of bad weather has likely reduced the size of the Northwest cherry crop — again.

Rain in the second half of June is the latest curve ball thrown by Mother Nature this season, grower-shippers and officials said.

Frost in April and heavy rains at the end of May reduced the initial season estimate of 18 million boxes to 16-17 million boxes.

By the end of June, that estimate was due for another downward adjustment, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Cherry Growers.

“A 17-million-box crop is not there anymore,” Thurlby said. “It could be 16 million, it could be 13 million.”

About 23 million boxes shipped from the Northwest last year.

That said, shippers should still have promotable volumes through about Aug. 10, Thurlby said.

“We still think it’s a significant crop.”

Eric Patrick, Yakima-based marketing manager for Oakland, Calif.-based Grant J. Hunt Co., agreed that there will be promotable volumes, but they won’t be as big as shippers initially anticipated.

“It’s been a fight to get volumes out of the orchards,” he said. “I think it will be pretty tight all season.”

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $45-55 for 18-pound cartons of bings 10-row, up from $32-38 last year at the same time. Cartons of 11-row were $35-45, up from $22-26.

Bings have been the variety hardest hit by the rain, Thurlby said. Rainiers, sweethearts, lapins and other varieties have fared better.

Early varieties including chelans and early bings were hardest hit by the frost in April and rains in May, shippers said.

On the bright side, quality was looking good at the beginning of July, and fruit was sizing well, Patrick said.

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