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Young cherries near Granger, Washington on April 28, 2016. <b>(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Young cherries near Granger, Washington on April 28, 2016. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Cherry growers throughout the Northwest expect to harvest 207,460 metric tons, or 20.7 million 20-pound equivalent boxes, in 2016, according to the industry’s first estimate of the year.

If the figure holds, the volume would represent a 7 percent increase over the 2015 crop of 19.3 million boxes, according to an announcement today (Tuesday) of the Round 1 Crop Estimate by Northwest Cherry Growers, an industry association based in Yakima, Washington.

Growers are expecting another early start to the season with some areas anticipating the first picks May 23-25, the announcement said.

Meanwhile, the group expects 11 million boxes in June followed by 9 million in May. Also, growers anticipate a Rainier crop of 1.7 million 15-pound boxes, roughly the same volume as 2015.

Of course, the figures may change with the weather, warned B.J. Thurlby, president of the Northwest Cherry Growers. A 22-person estimate team makes four rounds of crop predictions using assessments by field representatives, historical data, degree days, crop expansion and average processing tonnage.

The estimates help the group market the fruit both domestically and for export.

Northwest Cherries represents growers in five states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

– by Ross Courtney