Cherry growers in Washington and Oregon estimates a slight reduction of total tons harvested for the 2015 harvest season.  Source: Northwest Cherry Growers.

Cherry growers in Washington and Oregon estimate a reduction of total tons harvested for the 2015 harvest season. Source: Northwest Cherry Growers.

Northwest cherry growers expected to harvest just under 20 million boxes of fresh cherries this season, down from 23 million in 2014.

During Northwest Cherry Growers’ five-state cherry meeting in May, all districts reported shorter crops than a year ago. In The Dalles, Oregon, where trees suffered winter damage, the crop was estimated at 2.2 million 20-pound boxes, down from 3.1 million last year. Oregon’s total crop should be 2.8 million boxes.

Washington’s crop was estimated at 16.8 million boxes, down from 18.6 million a year ago. The Wenatchee district expected to harvest 9.1 million boxes and Yakima 7.7 million. Idaho forecast 1.1 million boxes, Montana 700,000 boxes, and Utah 200,000.

Cherry bloom was the earliest since Northwest Cherry Growers began tracking bloom and degree-day data 20 years ago, and harvest began in late May as the California crop was winding down.

B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, said cherry producers were feeling very positive and expected harvest to peak in late June, in time for the critical July 4 holiday sales.

Read more from the Northwest Cherry Growers report:

On Wednesday May 20th, 2015 over 70 growers, shippers and industry leaders of the Northwest Cherry industry met to discuss the 2015 Northwest Cherry Crop.  The group meets annually to discuss crop potential across all growing districts and formulates a crop estimate based on attendee input.  The 5-State estimate for 2015 is 197,500 metric tons or 19.75 million 20 lb. equivalent boxes.   As of today the industry is predicting a crop that will be down 15% from last year’s 23.2 million box crop.  However, a crop of 19.75 million boxes is substantial and will provide both retailers and consumers with plenty of opportunity to enjoy Northwest grown sweet cherries this summer!

Cherry bloom across the Northwest was the earliest it’s been in the past 20 years, which is when the NWCG began recording bloom and Growing Degree Day (GDD) data, and we continue to be furthest ahead to date within that period.  The separation in Degree Days by district is very positive, with the Tri-Cities area being 525 degree days ahead of the later harvesting regions of North Central Washington.  Normally the early and late districts would be separated by only 490 to 500 Growing Degree Days, which means there should be a nice spread from start to finish on this crop.  The warm weather seems to have done a wonderful job of creating cell division in this year’s crop, indicating crop row size and fruit sugars should be optimal!

We’ve included today’s Growing Degree Day information across many of our biggest production regions to illustrate where the timing of this crop is relative to other production years.  The warmer weather this spring indicates that this year’s harvest will begin in late May; with strong promotable volume building quickly in the first several days of June, leading to ample volume available for the U.S. 4th of July holiday.  Late season cherries will be available through July and into early August.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 26, 2015.