RICHLAND, Wash. — California will wrap up its early cherry season about the end of May, dovetailing nicely with Washington’s crop and likely short of its estimate.

That’s what Tate Mathison, sales director at Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, told growers at the Five State Cherry Commission meeting in Richland, May 20.

Mathison was just back from the company’s subsidiary in Stockton, Chinchiolo Stemilt California.

“As of yesterday, California was just under 3.5 million (18-pound) boxes and 260,000 were shipped yesterday which was a good shipping day,” he said.

The California Cherry Advisory Board in Sacramento estimated the crop at 5.7 million boxes, down from an 8.5-million-box norm, due to lack of winter chill and too much heat during pollination.

Harvest started April 11 near Bakersfield, beating the most recent early record of April 14, 2005. Harvest is now centered in Bings in the Stockton, Lodi and Delta areas.

California quality is the best in years, said Rob Stewart, manager, Stadelman Fruit, Zillah, Wash. That helps Washington by setting a good experience with consumers, said Mike Taylor, Stemilt vice president of sales and marketing.

Half the Bings were treated with a dormant breaking agent to push fruit early, Mathison said.

“We may have five or six good shipping days left in the state,” he said. “I think they will pick short of the estimate. It will be a struggle to get to 5 million.”

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