Early cherry blooms augur good state crop


QUINCY, Wash. (AP) — If Mother Nature does her part, it could be a good year for Washington cherries.

Cherry trees are still blooming, so detailed data about the crop won’t be available for a few weeks, said Dan Kelly of the Washington Growers Clearinghouse in Wenatchee. But the early signs are a little encouraging.

“Great bloom,” Kelly said. “We are expecting a large crop but not a ‘monster crop,’ as there are fewer flowers per bud this year,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington Fruit Commission in Yakima.

So far the weather has cooperated, with temperatures above freezing but not hot enough to influence maturity, Kelly said. Bloom is five days to a week ahead of schedule, he said.

“The crop is early which means there is great potential for Fourth of July promotions,” Thurlby said.

“We expect the first cherries to be picked on or near June 4 this year,” Thurlby said.

Most cherries are sold within a few days or weeks after being picked.

The length of the growing-selling season is critical — it helps make the difference between a year like 2012 and a year like 2009.

In 2012 the largest cherry crop in state history sold out at excellent prices, Kelly said. In 2009, prices dropped dramatically.

California is Washington’s chief competitor in the cherry market, and California’s weather hasn’t cooperated. The California crop is estimated at 5 to 6 million boxes, Thurlby said. California cherries are expected to mature early, so “we do not expect a large crossover of volume between the Northwest and California,” he said.

“We are running promotional programs in 18 countries, and expect to have most of our promotions in place by the last week in May,” Thurlby said. If conditions remain positive through June, that should “result in the critical momentum required in moving the late-season crop,” he said.


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