YAKIMA, Wash. — Washington cherry growers are hoping they’re not bit by bad weather as their harvest ramps up and the harvest in California winds down.
Already several hundred acres of cherries at Manson on Lake Chelan were lost to hail on May 29. Rain damaged some cherries from Pateros southward along the Columbia River, but nothing catastrophic.
Overall, there’s still a 19 million- to 20 million-box crop, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima.
Last year, 85 to 90 percent of cherries that entered packing houses were packed and shipped, but packouts of early Chelan-variety cherries this season are running 65 to 70 percent, Thurlby said.
That’s because of wind and rain damage and defects, including double cherries and spurs.
“Fruit into the box is eating really well and demand is exceeding supply,” he said.
California is nearing the end of its harvest that began April 11. In mid-May, California was shipping 250,000, 18-pound boxes of cherries daily. It was 40,000 on June 1 and 5.8 million boxes had been shipped so far for the season, Thurlby said. “They will get to 6 million. Their fruit’s been good,” he said.
Picking started in Washington on May 24 but is still ramping up with just 500,000, 20-pound boxes shipped as of June 1, Thurlby said.
The early Chelan variety is done and pickers are into later Chelans, he said. Bing harvest will start about June 8 around the Tri-Cities and “we should be at 250,000 to 300,000 boxes per day by the end of next week (June 12),” Thurlby said. It should reach 400,000 daily the following week, he said.
During last year’s record 23.2-million-box crop, more than 500,000 boxes were packed daily for 32 days. That level should go from June 17 or 18 through July 10 this year, he said.