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The Northwest’s cherry crop remains on track to be the third biggest crop in history.

Northwest Cherry Growers held their five-state cherry commission meeting on Wednesday and largely validated a previous forecast of nearly 20 million boxes expected this year.

Forecasts can be proven wrong by surprises such as rain that can damage a crop just before harvest.

Early this month, the cherry growers released their “Round #1” estimate that predicted 19.96 million, 20-pound boxes, up from last year’s disappointing (because of rain) 14.3 million boxes.At the Wednesday meeting, growers from five states compared notes on different districts and concluded that this year’s harvest was on track for 200,060 tons of cherries.

The bullish forecast resulted from favorable degree days and consistent blooms. Though some trees were not “heavy” with fruit, the early signs were promising. Another encouraging sign was the indication that cherries would ripen in a nice sequence so retailers would get a favorable flow of product.

“This is a humbling business,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers. “There are no guarantees but I really like the feel of the season we’re in.”Then Thurlby proceeded to knock on wood.

The Northwest’s bullish outlook contrasted with a depressed crop in California. Northwest growers were told California has so far shipped just 1.2 million boxes of cherries compared with a typical year of 3 million boxes. California’s cherry crop has been damaged by bad weather and inadequate water supplies. “It’s a real mess,” said Tate Mathison of Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, Washington, which has acreage in California.

At the meeting in Richland, Washington, growers approved an $18 per ton assessment to finance marketing of this year’s crop.