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Northwest cherry growers huddle by district to discuss their projected crop estimate Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at the annual 5-state cherry meeting in Richland, Washington. They are calling for a 22.7 million box crop.<b>(Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Northwest cherry growers huddle by district to discuss their projected crop estimate Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at the annual 5-state cherry meeting in Richland, Washington. They are calling for a 22.7 million box crop.(Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

Cherry growers from five Northwest states expect about 227,000 tons, or 22.7 million 20-pound boxes, from the 2017 crop.

The growers collectively came up with the estimate Wednesday, May 17 at the annual Northwest Cherry Growers annual 5-state meeting in Richland, Washington. The nonprofit organization markets sweet cherries for growers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

The estimate is the second of the season from the group, which makes several as the cherries ripen, but the only one made directly by growers. Normally, a group of field representatives for most of the large packing companies make the predictions. Weather conditions change, so all forecasts are likewise subject to change.

State by state, growers put the crop load like this:

• Washington 185 million boxes

• Oregon 39 million boxes

• Idaho 1.8 million boxes

• Montana 1 million boxes

• Utah 0.2 million boxes

The Northwest crop is forecast to be later than usual this year, with harvest starting on or after June 10. Some higher-elevation Washington growers have not yet reached full bloom. That’s discouraging for shippers attempting to capitalize on Fourth of July, traditionally a big cherry sales holiday.

However, the harvest should be spread out, making the logistics of finding labor and cold storage capacity smoother, said West Mathison of Stemilt, a Wenatchee fruit company.

“We’ll have as many cherries in August and we do in July,” he said. Some cherries will ship into September even, a rare occurrence.

Meanwhile, California growers are calling for their first sizeable crop in many years, with 8 million 18-pound boxes or more.

“There’s a big crop down there,” said Tate Mathison of Stemilt, which has property in California. “Don’t let anybody kid you.”

The state’s harvest always precedes Washington’s and will even more so this year, said

The state has harvested 2.5 million boxes so far, with harvest is expected to wrap up by June 8, which might leave a supply gap in the market.