The California cherry harvest is off to a good start and is heavy early, which bodes well for Washington, sources say.

Harvest began April 26 near Bakersfield and has spread north to Fresno, Lodi and Stockton. An 8 million-box crop is anticipated and 1.6 million boxes had been shipped as of May 14, said Chris Zanobini, executive director of the California Cherry Advisory Board in Sacramento.

Other than some wind and light rain, weather has been good, labor is adequate and quality is great, said Daniel Moznett, director of marketing at Grower Direct Marketing in Stockton.

"Our biggest issue is 70 to 80 percent of industry volume will be in May, so it's extremely compressed. We're trying to emphasize that promotions need to happen in May," he said.

Memorial Day is a big sales target for California cherries, but this year volume may be lessening by then, Moznett said.

Volume will be on the downhill slide in June, which should dovetail nicely with Washington's early crop, he said.

B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, Yakima, said it appears California will peak between May 20 and June 2, with light Bings of 1 ton to 2 tons per acre on the back side.

"If they have 3 tons in that they'll be lucky and that tells us that it's a good year to be early in the Northwest," he said.

-- Dan Wheat

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