(Feb. 2) A Washington tree fruit marketer and an Oregon cherry growers cooperative have formed a new packing company that should be up and running this year.

Yakima-based Sage Fruit Co. LLC and Oregon Cherry Growers Inc., The Dalles, Ore., on Jan. 31 announced the creation of Pacific Coast Cherry Packers, a joint-venture firm that will pack and ship both companies’ cherries.

In a news release, Sage and Oregon Cherry said Pacific Coast Cherry would run a new facility in Wapato, Wash., that will feature a jointly owned Van Doren cherry packing line. The operation should be ready to roll for the upcoming 2007 crop.

“We have sought a solution to supply our customers with quality cherries for the duration of the Northwest cherry crop and now we have that capability,” Sage Fruit general manager Steve Clement said in the release. “OCG is a great fit for us in terms of the timing of their supply.”

Under terms of the joint-venture, the companies said Sage Fruit would market and sell all fresh pack cherries, which, at an expected 850,000 packs, is more than double Sage’s previous volume.

“The growers at OCG are excited about the opportunities this joint venture with Sage fruit offers,” said Oregon Cherry board chair Greg Johnson, in a statement. “A brand new line and a top notch marketing and sales group will help our growers be more profitable going forward.”

In addition to its involvement in the cherry deal, Sage Fruit markets other tree fruits globally, selling products specifically for Valley Fruit, Olympic Fruit and now, Pacific Coast Cherry Packers.

Sweet cherry handler Oregon Cherry is owned by the growers who supply fruit for the co-op.