YAKIMA, Wash. — Despite sales to China dropping dramatically due to a 50 percent tariff, Washington wholesale cherry prices are “slightly above last year (in July) in most export markets and domestically,” says a top export manager.
“The wholesale price to China is much higher driven by great fruit and taxation of the increased tariffs,” said Bryan Peebles, export marketing manager of Chelan Fresh Marketing, in Chelan, one of the largest cherry marketers in the state.
Tariffs rising to 50 percent on July 6, in retaliation for the Trump administration tariffs on Chinese goods, have slowed shipment to China “significantly in July compared to last year,” Peebles said.
B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, in Yakima, previously reported 341,499, 20-pound boxes of Northwest cherries sold to China as of June 26 compared with 249,432 at the same point a year ago. More recently, shipments to China are “down significantly,” he said, adding he did not have specific numbers compiled.
The Pacific Northwest shipped 3.2 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries to China in 2017, valued at approximately $127 million. It was 13 percent of the crop.
Fewer cherries going to China puts some downward pressure on prices but it’s being offset by great quality, increased repeat sales and a smaller crop, Peebles said.
“This July’s prices are improved over last July’s. On a 20-pound box, it’s in the $30 to $35 range, domestic and export,” he said.
A cherry glut last July caused prices to tumble.
As of July 23, the industry had shipped more than 20 million boxes of cherries domestically and overseas, said Tom Riggan, Chelan Fresh Marketing general manager.
Thurlby said he thinks the crop will finish over 24 million boxes, somewhere higher than the last estimate of 23.2 million. Last year’s crop was a record 26.4 million boxes.
As of July 17, the industry marked 30 days of shipping more than 500,000 boxes per day. Now it’s at 400,000 per day and will be closer to 300,000 by the end of the week, he said.
Other than China, export demand has been outstanding with plenty of large, 9-row cherries heading to more than 40 markets worldwide, Thurlby said. Exports have made up 35 percent of shipments, he said.
“The U.S. grocery retail industry is perhaps one of the most competitive in the world. Produce is key in summer. So when a group of just over 2,000 growers in one corner of the country can say their fruit is on ad in more stores than any other for the third week in a row, then that’s really saying something,” Thurlby said.
Growers have enjoyed good weather with virtually no crop-ruining rains nor excessive heat.
“Quality remains outstanding. Lots of size and sugar,” he said.
Harvest will go to mid-August or maybe later in higher elevations, Thurlby said.