(Dec. 26) Consumers can look forward to abundant quantities of high-quality Chilean fruit this winter — just maybe not as soon as they’d hoped.

Stone fruit from Chile most likely won’t arrive in volume until January, up to several weeks later than usual, importers and officials said.

Chilean cherries, however, were available in volume by mid-December, and retailers were cashing in, said Tom Tjerandsen, marketing director for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sacramento, Calif.

“Cherries have arrived with a vengeance,” Tjerandsen said Dec. 21. “Retailers are reporting spectacular success with pre-holiday sales.”

Enough product was on hand for one Hy-Vee store in Charlotte, N.C., Tjerandsen visited in mid-December to sell them on ad for $3.99 a pound.

“They’re $9.99 at my store down the corner, and they’re still selling,” said Tjerandsen, who lives in San Francisco. “They’re almost a price-inelastic item. It’s been an extraordinarily successful item for Chile.”

Volumes are up on cherries and pluots and about the same on other stone fruit crops from Chile for Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg, Calif., said Bob Maxwell, special projects manager.

“There are piles of cherries out there,” he said. “Half of one of the ships is filled with cherries. It’s a very active market.”

On Dec. 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $38-42 for 5-kilogram cartons of bagged jumbo bing cherries from Chile, up from $30-32 last year at the same time.

Chile’s hard winter has yielded excellent quality and above-average sizing on stone fruit, Maxwell said. The down side is the cold weather delayed shipments.

“I’ll see my first ship today,” Maxwell said Dec. 21. “It’s the worst time to get product. The next five days will be dead — there’s no one there to buy fruit. The lateness may hurt the Chileans as far as markets.”

On Dec. 18, the USDA reported prices of $26-28 for two-layer tray pack cartons of peaches from Chile, up from $14-16 last year at the same time.