Though we still have several weeks before the cherry season starts in earnest, and more weeks until it reaches a peak, the seasonal clues about the harvest are beginning to form a picture of what we can expect this year. After 2020’s weird response to the pandemic, the cherry season was around one-third larger than 2019, though much of the sales were domestic due to travel and trade restrictions in place to stop the spread of the virus. Though 2021 isn’t quite on track to reach “back to normal” status, the cherry season in both Washington and California might be a slice of normal in a world disrupted.
Starting in April at the southernmost edge of the cherry orchards, the harvest is susceptible to innumerable troubles that can lead to frost and water damage. Unlike years past, we’re currently experiencing ideal bloom conditions as more chill hours rack up for the trees, but fewer record cold snaps impact the Central Valley growth. Chill hours are up more than 10% over 2019, leading to expectations of more cherries of larger sizes than previously anticipated.
As the season starts to take shape, more information is coming in as to what we can expect for the 2021 harvest season. The cool weather delays are only expected to add between 5-7 days to the delay to harvest, but the demand has given packers the initiative and opportunity to invest in new technology to increase capacity and identify defects faster and get more cherries to market more quickly. Growers are anticipating a strong harvest with large volumes as trees are uniformly blooming and rotation looks to be on point to ensure a steady supply of harvest ready fruit to keep shipments moving with the first shipments coming at the end of April and the peak hitting on Memorial Day weekend. Bing cherries are harvested later and thanks to colder weather, Bings will have a slower harvest and therefore a prolonged season.
While cherry exports to Asia are on the rise, more nations are expected to follow the trend. Cherries are a fashionable food and those exported from the U.S. West Coast are often the finest available. It’s entirely possible we won’t know the final harvest numbers until later in the summer but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the weather and demand lead to a banner year for cherry exports.
CFI has been at the forefront of cherry exports working with growers along the west coast to ensure the safe shipment of these ruby fruits. The superior cool chain technology in use allows us to control the freshness of your shipments with light refracting overpacks, temperature checks, and cutting edge cooling options to keep delicate stone fruit in pristine condition during transit. With our network of industry partners, CFI is your most critical resource for safe, secure, and fresh overseas shipping to destinations around the world. In an era of constrained air capacity, CFI has the ability to secure the all-important space to reach overseas markets and buyers.