Executive director Chris Zanobini is pleased with the first year’s performance of the Sacramento, Calif.-based California Cherry Board.

The new organization came about following an industrywide vote last March to approve a new marketing order forming the California Cherry Marketing and Research Program.

The name has been simplified to the California Cherry Board.

“Our first year was great,” Zanobini said.

The new board differs significantly from the California Cherry Advisory Board, which it replaced, Zanobini said.

The board covers all cherry varieties, whereas the previous one included only four.

“Now the board encompasses all cherry growers — the entire industry in California,” Zanobini said.

Research oriented

The California Cherry Board focuses on production research, along with some post-harvest research, and also is involved in export programs and trade activities in export markets.

The board will not conduct domestic promotions.

Export activities focus on Japan and Korea as well as Australia and Canada. Canada and Japan are the industry’s largest export markets, he said.

The board also will try to “get good market intelligence out of China.”

China shows promise as an export destination for California cherries, Zanobini said, “but there are still a lot of unknowns there.”

Export programs will be different from what the board has done in the past.

“We’re working direct with the trade. We’re not using any in-country representation,” Zanobini said.
“We’re making sure the resources are being put directly to work to market the crop.”

Programs may vary from country to country, he said, and will depend on “our direct agreements with the actual customers in those countries.”

Disease control

In the realm of research, the board will put a lot of emphasis on disease control by launching several projects in that field.

Topics like integrated pest management and studying the epidemiology of certain products and how it affects fruit diseases will be investigated, Zanobini said.

Post-harvest research will involve looking at early season estimation and analyzing fruit set.

The board also plans to test modified-atmosphere bags and conduct research into cherry storage, shipping and arrivals.

Reflecting on the board’s first year, Zanobini — and industry members — seem satisfied.

“The board got up and running, and we had good results from our export programs and trade policy activities,” Zanobini said.

The board established some new daily reporting methods on crop shipments and destinations, “which is important information for marketers to use.”

Board meetings have been well-attended, Zanobini said, and he lauded board committees for the progress they have made.

“Our research committee and our export and trade committee have done a phenomenal job,” he said. “I think that makes all the difference.”

Funded by growers, packers

The board is funded jointly by cherry growers and packers. The assessment for the coming year had not been determined as of early April, but Zanobini said it would be less than 10 cents per box, with a goal of 8 cents.

Industry members seem pleased with the new board.

“It’s working very well,” said Maurice Cameron, president and global sales manager for The Flavor
Tree Co. LLC, Hanford, Calif., sales arm of Warmerdam Packing LLC. “I think it makes a lot more sense (than the old board).”

“It’s working out great,” agreed Jeff Colombini, president of Lodi Farming, Stockton, Calif. “It now covers the entire California cherry industry.”

“It’s been very successful, in my opinion,” said Larelle Miller, saleswoman for Morada Produce Co, Linden, Calif.

Many grower-shippers are pleased because per-box assessments are lower, and funds will be used for research rather than generic promotions.

“I think (research) is what growers are concerned about,” she said.