Bloom is barely over, but Northwest cherry growers have already made their first 2021 crop prediction.

They are calling for a 238,000-ton harvest, according to a May 6 news release from Northwest Cherry Growers, the Yakima, Washington, organization that collectively promotes sweet cherries from the five Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. The figure is also measured in 23.8 million 20-pound box equivalents.

The first crop estimate of the year has the most potential to change as the season progresses. The association makes periodic volume forecasts throughout the year with a 22-person field estimation team and a modeling system based on weather, history, acreage and other factors.

The 2021 volume prediction, if it holds, would be on the large side — the third largest in the past eight years.

Harvest is expected to begin in the last few days of May, according to the release. 

Little cherry disease will continue to affect the crop. The industry estimates the acreage removed by orchards, as a mitigation measure, has reduced potential volume by 2.5 million to 3 million boxes, the release said.

Cherry growers from the five states are scheduled to gather virtually for their annual preseason meeting May 19 at 10:30 a.m. An agenda with log-in and call-in instructions will be emailed to members.

by Ross Courtney