There will be an overlap between California and Washington growing seasons this year, but it may help more than hurt the Northwest cherry season.
“You always want a little overlap so they can prime the pump and get cherries in the pipeline,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash.
Joan Tabak, sales manager with Fridley, Minn.-based Roland Marketing, marketer of Green Giant-branded cherries, said the overlap could lead to chaotic conditions for a brief period but shouldn’t have a lasting impact.
Provided California has good eating quality, Queen said having cherries in the pipeline at all times will be beneficial.
“It will benefit us both,” agreed Eric Patrick, Yakima, Wash.-based marketing director for Grant J. Hunt Co.
“When they have a great eating quality crop, (consumers) want to keep coming back for more and we can keep delivering it,” he said.
The California bing crop will be cleaned up by the middle of June, after which time volume from the Northwest is expected to come in a significant way by June 17 to June 20, said Jim Hanson, managing director for Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton, Calif.
California’s crop has been growing in the past few years, mostly as a result of new orchards in northern and southern growing regions — but primarily the southern growing region between Fresno and Bakersfield, Hanson said.
Fresh cherry shipments in the state have been about 8.6 million boxes last year, and an incremental increase of a few hundred thousand boxes is anticipated this year, he said.
“If we don’t have weather-related issues, we should see another increase this year,” he said.
The fruit set in California’s southern growing region ranged from moderate to the light side of heavy, providing retailers with a promotable volume, Hanson said.
California’s southern growing district was expected to kick off by late April and continue through late May.
Meanwhile, the bing cherry volume from the Stockton-Lodi region was expected to begin around May 23, with volume beginning about May 26, Hanson said.
Depending on orchard location, that volume should end in mid-June, he said.
Hanson said the experience last year in the Northwest was unusual and won’t apply to this year.
Weather conditions caused a 50-day crop to be crammed into a 25-day marketing window. That, combined with record cherry volume in the Northwest, created havoc among cherry marketers.
“Throw last year out the window,” Hanson said. This year, retailers will experience promotable volume through the Northwest season, but f.o.b. prices shouldn’t suffer the kinds of supply shocks experienced last year.