The United States of America has a main role when it comes to cherry production. According to figures by the United States Department of Agriculture, the total production of sweet cherries in 2022 was 275,000 tons, while tart cherries reached up to 229 million pounds.
Washington, California and Oregon are the main sweet cherry producing states, with around 90% of the quantity worldwide, while Michigan takes more than 70% of tart cherries (NASS, 2022).
The country is the second-largest producer of the fruit in the world, right after Turkey (NASS 2022), this means an economic value that surpasses the $800 millions in the case of sweet fresh cherries and the $100 millions in the case of tart cherries. Regarding exportations, Canada ($154.3 million) was the largest market for fresh produce in 2022, followed by South Korea ($101.9 million). Imports, on the other hand, were valued at $95.7 million, being Chile the main supplier with about 26%.
To invest in cherries both sweet and tart varieties, is important to know that chilling hours are not tradable. In order to induce flowering, specialists explained that about 1000 to 1500 hours between 35° F – 55°F are needed. This said, the balance is also fundamental, frosts and unusual rains may result in fruit splits, which increase the risk of rotten and ruins the aesthetics, this makes the fruit unattractive to the market. The weather though, now more than ever, is becoming an unpredictable aspect and to invest in the preventive measures may be the safe bet.
The most necessary aspect for cherry fruit production is adequate pollination. Commercial varieties of tart cherries are considered self-pollinating; therefore planting them with another variety is not necessary. Sweet cherries, however, are not self-pollinating and thus need to be planted with compatible varieties for pollination to occur (Virginia Polytechnic State University – Cooperative Extension, 2021).
Annually, each person eats more than 2 pounds of cherry. This number has been stable in the last decade with a peak in 2009, when 2.5 pounds were registered per person. Although fresh cherries still dominate consumer preferences with an average of 75% of sweet cherries destined to fresh market preferences, their popularity has increased considerably in other forms. Frozen, canned, dried and as juice or wine, the remaining 25% of the fruit is sold in processed formats.
No matter if they are fresh or processed, the promotion of the fruit is an essential in the business. In the country, the marketing season for sweet and tart cherries starts in spring and goes on throughout the summer (April to August approximately), picking festivals, visits to farms and in general, a direct relationship with growers is becoming an increasing strategy.
The presentation is another key factor. In countries like China, cherries are a traditional gift for the loved ones, especially during the Chinese New Year. Therefore, exporters prioritize presentation from color to fonts and all details included.