The United States is the top 3 sweet cherry producer globally, even when the production dropped 27% last year, from 380,000 mt in 2021 to about 275,000 mt in 2022, due to climate conditions: cold weather, frost and high rainfall. After these results, the United States lost its position as the third largest exporter worldwide to Turkey.
Washington, California and Oregon are the leading cherry producing states, reaching about 90% of the country´s production.
In fact, the first cherries of the season around the world are produced in California. It is a short season that typically begins in mid-May (the early varieties even 2 weeks before) and lasts until early June, reaching the peak by end of May. However, according to the industry estimates the season is delayed due to a cool and wet spring.
“The California Cherry crop is rather late this year due to an unusually cool spring. For some growers they are starting almost 3 weeks later than last season,” said Sarah Bistritz, Global Sales & Operations Manager at World Fresh Exports.
The Northwest harvest, which follows California, normally kicks off on June 1, but the industry expects to start the cherry harvest on June 15.
“This spring started slowly, with low temperatures but without frost. The conditions have been quite favorable for pollination, and there is a good amount of fruit visible. The flowering was delayed by about two weeks, but the temperatures we have had this week are accelerating the development. We’ll see how it goes,” explained Bernardita Sallato, Tree Fruit Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor at Washington State University.
This delay is “possibly the latest we have ever seen (…) June 15, 2011, was the record for the latest cherry harvest for the Northwest, so if this year’s harvest begins on June 16 or 17, it will break the record,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission to the local media Wenatchee World.
The Northwest varieties expected for June are Chelan, Tieton, Bing, Rainier and Early Robin, and for July are Lapins, Skeena, Sweetheart and Regina.
Despite the delay, growers are expecting a good harvest season this summer.
“On a positive note, box estimates are up in comparison to last season. We are also excited to see increasing interest from our customers in China to start importing California Cherries, indicating further recovery from the pandemic,” added Sarah Bistritz from World Fresh Exports.
Last year cherry exports from USA dropped considerably, about 55%, achieving slightly more than 40,000 mt., according to the US Department of Agriculture. Exports started in May, reaching his peak during July (21,000 mt).