Growers expected an earlier-than-usual start to this year’s California cherry crop, but many said volume likely will be down compared to normal, especially in the southern San Joaquin Valley, which is the first growing area to produce fruit.

Warmerdam Packing LP in Hanford, Calif., expects to have its earliest start date ever, said Maurice Cameron, sales manager for the company’s sales arm, Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC.

“We anticipate we may even be packing a couple of days before Easter,” he said in early April. “We’ve never packed that early before.”

The company should have significant volume by the end of April, he said.

“In other years, you’ll get a fluke orchard that’s picking and packing in April,” Cameron said. “This year, several orchards will be picking and packing.”

Warmerdam has sizable acreage of its proprietary Sequoia variety, which is on the front end of the production schedule, he said.

Quality this year should be “exceptional.”

“The crop is not heavy at all,” Cameron said. “Early varieties seem to be particularly light.”

Lighter crops usually produce larger-size fruit.

Lodi Farming, Stockton, Calif., should get started “on time or possibly a few days earlier than normal,” said Jeff Colombini, president.

“It all depends on the weather between now and harvest,” he said March 28.

Cherries bloomed earlier than normal and that usually means an earlier harvest, he said.

Lodi Farming should start harvesting in the northern San Joaquin Valley around May 10.

Many cherries bloomed for a longer period than usual, Colombini said, which means they didn’t have as many chilling hours as they needed, especially in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

That means the southern crop probably won’t be a full crop, he said, and the harvest will be more drawn out than normal. The fruit won’t ripen evenly, so growers will have to schedule several picks

But he said the fruit that is available should be of good quality.

Delta Packing Co. of Lodi Inc. expects to start picking April 21, one day earlier than usual, said Paul Poutre, general manager.

He expected the crop to be down from last year because of insufficient chill hours from October to February.

Many trees have a lot of cherries, but a lot of them are not marketable, he said.

He’s seeing a big drop in the tulare and brooks varieties, and he said some jackets are split on the bings.

It was too early to tell how the northern crop will fare, but he said the southern crop “is definitely lighter than last year.”

Fresno, Calif.-based Trinity Fruit Sales Co. will start picking fruit in the Arvin area the third week of April, said David White, president.

“Quality so far looks good,” he said April 4. “It looks like it will be a pretty clean crop.”

He expected to have plenty of cherries available for Memorial Day, May 26.

At Valhalla Sales & Marketing Co., Kingsburg, Calif., owner David Stone said his company will start to harvest the first week of May.

No one has a good handle on what this year’s volume will be industrywide, he said, but he does expect to see larger fruit if there is a lighter crop.