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Northwest cherry season kicks off with optimistic projections

sdfThe highly anticipated 2024 Northwest cherry season has officially begun, marked by favorable weather conditions that have set the stage for a promising harvest. Growers in the region are reporting excellent crop quality, with the perfect balance of warm days and cool nights contributing to optimal size and flavor of the cherries.

Initial harvests are now under way, and while this year's yield may not set records, the quality of the fruit is expected to drive repeat purchases among consumers. "The fruit we are seeing appears to have the quality that will drive repeat purchases from our Northwest cherry consumer base," said the Washington State Fruit Commission (Northwest Cherries).

As the season progresses, industry stakeholders can expect volumes to increase steadily over the next 10 days, ensuring ample supply to support promotional activities from mid-June through late July. "Keep those planned promotions in place as we have millions of reasons to promote the 2024 NW Cherry crop," it emphasized.

sdfThe 2024 crop estimate ranges between 17 to 20 million boxes (20-pound equivalents), according to the 17-person field estimation team. This range accounts for the natural phenomenon known as "June Drop," where trees shed cherries not destined for harvest. While early production districts have experienced average June Drop rates, there is concern over the potential for a more significant drop in the northern parts of the crop, which endured extreme cold weather this past winter.

Despite these challenges, the combined observations from the field team support a robust estimate for the Northwest's dark sweet and Rainier (yellow) cherries. Although the Rainier cherry crop is expected to be slightly below the five-year average of 1.7 million boxes, a significant volume of yellow cherries is anticipated from late June into July.

California continues to ship just over 200,000 boxes of cherries daily (18-pound equivalents), having recently adjusted their estimate from 10.2 million to roughly 8.2 million boxes due to sizing and maturity issues. They have now met this revised estimate and are nearing the end of their season. This overlap between California and Northwest cherry seasons is seen as beneficial, allowing retailers to maintain consistent shelf space and ensuring a smooth transition as Northwest cherries enter full production.

Northwest Cherry Growers launched a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote the 2024 crop worldwide. Starting in mid-June, a national PR campaign will go live, featuring web banners and various promotional materials with a French theme to coincide with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris. Key retail partners will showcase Northwest Cherry banners and messaging both online and offline, aiming to maximize consumer engagement and sales during the peak season.

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