The 2011 Northwest Cherry season is finally under way … with first harvest starting to trickle in on June 18th … we are finally starting to see some volume build, as we expect to have close to 200,000, 20-pound-equivalent boxes packed today. At the very peak of the season, the Northwest industry will pack over 500,000 boxes per day.

Coming out of the chutes

Demand has exceeded supply through the industry’s first million boxes. Retail groups are setting ads for the week after the 4th, and we will see many of our promotional programs line up during the week of July 17th. We will have promotions going worldwide by then, hoping to keep demand above the increased supply of the last half of July and into mid-August.

Importantly, I have a really good feeling about the export market this year. Japan seems uncharacteristically focused on having a big year. China could be the “game changer” of a market, and they are clamoring for our crop. In caution, we will need some size on our cherries to maximize the Asian market. I was pleased to see that 10-1/2 row overtook 11 row for percent of pack on Sunday. A couple ground buyers have mentioned that our Chelan cherries are as good or better than the best they saw out of California this year.

Here at Northwest Cherry Growers, we are focused on driving consumer publicity toward our cherries. This weekend, we toured a group of food writers from such groups as The Seattle Times, Huffington Post, AOL Food,, and a host of other publications. The following link is a recipe release on AOL Food leading into the tour:

Likewise, NWCG Promotion Director James Michael is hosting a contingent of writers in New York City this week. His media visits will be accented with a special tasting of Rainier cherries. Over the next few weeks, we will host several major magazine food editors and a team from the Food Network. All of this is a plus for the growers!

It’s amazing to me how every cherry year is different, and trying to assimilate what might have happened in a previous year to the current year is always challenging … because the overall market dynamics are usually different.

In short, this is the sweet cherry business!