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Rains cut into Chile's cherry crop





By DAN WHEAT



Capital Press



YAKIMA, Wash. -- Chilean cherries are more scarce in U.S. supermarkets and elsewhere this winter because of significant crop loss to rain.



Cherry harvest in Chile runs mid-November to mid-January and usually produces about 8 million, 20-pound boxes, or 80,000 tons.



This year's crop was approximately cut in half due to rain during bloom causing poor pollination and more rain in mid-December that split cherries before they were picked, said Rick Derrey, a Zillah, Wash., cherry grower and co-owner of an orchard in Chile.



Harvest of his crop wrapped up Dec. 12, just before heavy rain took a big toll on the bulk of the industry's crop, he said.



Prices were good but not enough to offset lower volume caused by light pollination, Derrey told Capital Press during Northwest Cherry Grower's Cherry Institute in Yakima.



Chilean cherries have little effect on Northwest cherries but they do keep cherries in front of consumers, which is a good thing, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Fruit Commission.



Most exported Chilean cherries go to Asia, mainly China, he said.



Last year, Chile shipped close to 5 million half-Euro cartons (12-pound boxes) to China and about 2 million to the U.S., Thurlby said.



China is a growing market for Northwest cherries.



Keith Hu, international program director at Northwest Cherry Growers, will visit China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore Jan. 18 to Feb. 5, to assess Southern Hemisphere cherry sales during the Chinese New Year and begin work on summer promotions of Northwest cherries.



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