From Plenty to Predicament: The Story of Cherry Growers in 2023

From Plenty to Predicament: The Story of Cherry Growers in 2023

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The 2023 cherry harvest faced challenges due to overlapping seasons in Washington and California, compressing the harvest period from 90 to 30 days. As reported by the local outlet, Wenatchee World, this led to difficulties in managing harvest crews and increased overtime costs. Despite good quality fruit, marketing disruptions caused some cherries to go unharvested.

Estimated production fell short due to market compression, with only around 18 million boxes harvested out of an expected 22-23 million. Weather challenges delayed California’s harvest, exacerbating the market saturation and leading to a significant price drop compared to the previous year. The significant drop in cherry prices amidst rising production costs was devastating for growers, especially considering recent inflation. Many Washington farmers faced the dilemma of potentially losing money by harvesting cherries due to high expenses.

Industry leaders, including Jon DeVaney, sought assistance from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requesting a disaster designation for Washington’s cherry production region. This designation would enable farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans. Additionally, he asked for policy flexibility in disaster assistance programs and crop insurance. As of January 11, the requests were still under review by the USDA, with no established timeline.

Source: Wenatchee World

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