TOKYO, Japan — As the Northwest Cherry Season quickly approaches I am spending two weeks meeting with importers in Korea and Japan.   Our Director of international business, Keith Hu, and I had some great meetings last week in Korea.  It’s been several years since I have seen Asian importers get excited for an early start to the Northwest season! The opportunity of early Northwest cherries to kick off an aggressive selling season stoked by volume in June has generated a great deal of excitement. The health component has been a big talking point with retailers in our meetings, and quite a few have requested additional in-store pieces to communicate the benefits to consumers. It’s a good thing we’re pushing more health research moving forward!

Several loads of California cherries had arrived in Korea during our visit but the KDFA (Korean APHIS) had held the cherries for quarantine inspection, which will take 3 to 4 days this year.  We visited many stores and only saw California cherries in one major chain, which was a Shinsegae Department Store.  As you can see from the photo, the cherries are the early season Brooks variety.  As of today, the California industry has shipped just over 250,000 boxes.  We left Korea on Saturday. Keith is spending this week in China and I am setting up promotion programs in Japan.California cherries in Korea

Based on the fact that the Northwest crop bloomed from 5 to 10 days ahead of the previous five years and warm weather is predicted for the growing districts, we can expect our first pick to fall in the first few days of June.

Bloom timing is aligned with what we already know … that we will see more volume in June than we have seen since 2007,  a year in which we picked over 7 million 20-pound equivalent boxes in the early window. I continue to be encouraged with what I am seeing leading up to this year’s harvest. The middle to later cherries remain well behind the early districts and the Yakima Valley in degree-day units. The biggest question in my mind is how will the timing of the crop play out relative to our early districts running into the lower Yakima Valley?  Other than that, our crop spread appears to be optimal.

Today, there is great potential for the 2013 crop of Northwest cherries.  We know the crop is shorter than last year and it will be interesting to see what estimate comes out of this year’s five-state grower meeting that is set for May 15 at the Red Lion Hanford House in Richland, Washington.