As National Rainier Cherry Day came and went this week, the team here at the Northwest Cherry Growers have been hosting a bevy of food writers and bloggers, who have come from around United States to cover this season’s cherry harvest. This morning I introduced a photographer from a “major” lifestyle magazine to Mr. Mark Hanrahan, a grower in the Zillah area. As the sun came up over the surrounding orchards and the morning shadows gave way to a perfectly clear image of Mt. Rainier on the horizon, our photographer commented that it was “a perfect day to be alive … a perfect day to shoot these amazing cherries." Then the photographer asked us to keep the name of the major publication he was working for “confidential,” because the article on our cherries will not run in the magazine until summer 2012. What I can say is that several million subscribers will read about our passion for cherries and this particular magazine can be found at most supermarket checkout stands throughout the U.S. marketplace.
During the photo shoot, the mood was light, with discussion concerning Mr. Hanrahan’s future as a “potential” hand model. Our photographer mentioned that while Mark’s future as a hand model was “cloudy at best,” his future as a grower of premium Northwest Cherries looked very bright!
As for the crop progression, we have shipped approximately 7.5 million 20-pound-equivalent boxes through today and demand has remained strong so far this season. As for the industry estimate of 16 plus million boxes? As of last Friday, the industry estimate was running 7% high (above) actual shipments. As of today, I’m tracking actual shipments at 3.4% ahead of our round-3 estimate. Wow, a few days later and we have now shipped more fruit than the estimation model expected—It looks like the fruit that we thought would be harvested the week of July 3 is coming off this week. I know that the state of Oregon has shipped only about 480,000 boxes, and they are expecting 2.5 million this year. The overall lateness of this crop is evident in the fact that we have only shipped 800,000 or so boxes of Rainier variety cherries. The five-year average of Rainier shipments by today is approximately 1.4 million boxes.
The bottom line is that we have been blessed by excellent quality cherries, a cool spring that allowed our trees to recover from this winter’s damage, a perfect landscape for promotion activity that includes a domestic market that is short on most summer produce items, an export market where international currencies are strengthening compared to the U.S. dollar, and an expanding world of devoted cherry consumers!