LINDEN, Calif. — California’s cherry trees should produce a strong crop this year — unless Mother Nature throws a wrench in the works with a late-season storm.

“Everyone’s anticipating a good crop,” said Larelle Miller, sales manager at Rivermaid Trading Co., Lodi.

Based on the past eight years, Miller said the industry has consistently packed about 8.5 million 18-pound boxes, except for 2011. Last year, two late storms caused significant fruit damage in northern production areas, reducing packout by about 2 million boxes.

Some put this year’s crop as high as 12 million boxes, but she said she believes a more realistic figure is between 8 million and 10 million boxes.

Rich Sambado, domestic sales manager at Primavera Marketing Inc., Linden, agreed.

“With the acreage in the ground and no rain at harvest, I’d like to think we could have 8 million to 9 million boxes,” he said.

Rivermaid historically has shipped about 1 million boxes, and that may be overly optimistic this season because of sporadic March frosts and hail in Kern County, Miller said.

Most of Rivermaid’s volume is in bings, with smaller but increasing volumes of corals and chelans, she said. Some new plantings of bentons in the Walnut Grove area are just beginning to bear.

Because of cool conditions, Miller said the crop appears to be late.

“Maybe not as late as last year, but pretty close,” she said. “It’s definitely later than normal, whatever normal is.”

She said she expected promotable volume — 50,000 boxes or more per day — to begin shortly after Mother’s Day.

“Again, it really depends on Mother Nature,” she said. “With the sporadic bloom in Kern County and the frost and minimal hail damage, they will all affect the early season volume.”

Areas in the south San Joaquin Valley, such as Bakersfield-Arvin and Visalia-Fresno-Reedley, are traditionally warmer, and should start the first week of May with brooks and rulare, Sambada said.

However, with cold weather hovering over San Joaquin County’s bloom in late March, he said the start of harvest in the Linden area could be similar to last year, early to mid-June.

Accounting for new acreage coming on, Sambada said Primavera expected to handle about 2 million boxes this season, barring unforeseen storms.

Farther south in Hanford, Mo Cameron, sales manager for The Flavor Tree Fruit Co. LLC, expected more normal timing, with limited cherry shipments starting the end of April. The season should start in earnest by May 9-10.

Cameron said he expected to handle slightly more volume than last year because of heavier fruit set this year.

Last year, the firm shipped more than 400,000 boxes of its proprietary Sequoia variety, and Cameron said he saw continued growth as well with the proprietary Yosemite variety.

In addition, The Flavor Tree Fruit Co. handles organic cherries from about 160 acres of mostly Sequoias with lesser amounts of Yosemite, Tulare and ranier, he said.