California cherries, project well, and taking their sweet time!
California cherry season is peaking around the corner, headlined by size and quality, albeit lacking a bit of urgency. The season is delayed, some estimating 12 days behind schedule, with more questions surrounding the early districts. Volume will ramp up steadily throughout May with promotion peaking as the calendar turns to June.
Rivermaid Trading emphasizes the same quality assurance that has put them on the map as state’s No. 1 grower-shipper of California Pears. Kyle Persky, sales manager at Lodi-based Rivermaid Trading, highlighted the ideal growing conditions, ”We had the perfect chill and good conditions, so you know these are going to be some really delicious cherries.”
“That’s the message we have to get out to retailers,” said Jim Hanson, managing member at Grower Direct of Stockton, CA, who confirmed the season’s delay. According to Hanson, retailers should expect a promotional window running May 15 to June 16, with the majority of the California crop expected in June. Grower Direct forecasts a California yield between 8 and 9 million boxes and a large fruit profile.
As for their season, Morada Produce is forecasting 1.8 to 2 million cartons. Mike Jameson, director of sales and marketing for the Linden-based grower-shipper, estimates roughly twelve days behind last season’s start, and assured retailers California’s delayed supply projects to hit major promotional windows of Memorial Day and Father’s Day.
Brianna Shales, Marketing Director at Washington-based Stemilt Growers highlighted their California operation and the success of Stemilt’s Coral cherries, “Today Coral is the No. 1 varietal in California, swapping first and second place with Bing, known for its consistent fruit set, Coral is a large cherry with a high eating quality.” Similarly, Shales urged retailers to check out Stemilt’s “5 River Islands” branded cherries, grown in California’s unique Delta Region. Shales explained the farmland high watermass and consistent breeze off the water provide ideal conditions for growing cherries.
As for weather, California’s winter and spring have been a staple atop the news ticker. Hanson said, “In the north, Mother Nature has handed us nearly 30-inches of rain since Jan. 1, and double the amount of rain they see in districts to the south.” That rainfall represents a net positive for growers who are all too familiar with the state’s water challenges. Hanson reminded us, “We’ve needed the water, but now we need to see some days above 80 degrees.” Hanson laughed at all the weather talk, and reminded, “Cherries, certainly is that crop where you truly don’t know, and you can’t call the game until it’s in the box!”
Other talking points landed on improved tech, new packing lines, sustainability reports and initiatives, and the simple fun it is to move California cherries, even with the inherent challenges! California cherries are taking their sweet time but are on their way and primed for a successful season.