Gonzalo Villareal harvests SweetHeart cherries in Selah, Washington on July 16, 2015. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Gonzalo Villareal harvests SweetHeart cherries in Selah, Washington on July 16, 2015. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

by B.J. Thurlby

Here we are in the first week of August and the 2015 Northwest Cherry season is all but over.

This will be the earliest finish for the Northwest in over 20 years.  Over the past week industry shipments have dropped to under 10,000 boxes per day, which is the signal that another season is behind us.

It appears that the total Northwest crop will pack out at close to 20.4 million 20 lb. equivalent boxes.  The 2015 crop started early (on May 23) and compressed to 20 million boxes being shipped over just 60 days.

Likewise, the Round 3 crop estimate that was distributed to the industry on May 28th came in at 20.53 million boxes, meaning that by season’s end the industry estimate was accurate within one percent.

However, it is important to note that during the week of June 29th the estimate lagged behind actual incoming receipts by more than 1 million boxes.  Why?  In a word … heat.

June set records.   The industry shipped an all-time record of 12.6 million boxes in June and 14 million by July 4th.   As every cherry grower knows … we also saw the hottest June on record.

In the words of Nic Lloyd at WSU’s AgWeatherNet,

“June 2015 is in a class of its own in terms of temperatures.  Two major heat waves punctuated a sweltering and dry month of June.  Nonetheless, the real weather story of June is not the daily extreme temperatures but rather the monthly average temperatures.

Overall, last month shattered the previous June warmth record (1992) by 2.7 degrees, at 8.1 degrees, or 3.1 standard deviations, above normal.  99.7% of all normally distributed events should fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean, such that this June was, statistically speaking, at least a 1 in 400 year event.

June was even warmer than a typical July, and was by far the hottest calendar month (relative to normal) on record.  The previous record was +6.1 degrees in January 1990.”

The 2015 season was challenging in the orchard and in the market.  We saw unprecedented demand for our fruit from the beginning of the season through the 4th of July.

The two weeks following the 4th of July holiday saw the industry struggle to move fruit as quickly as the compressed harvest demanded.

For the first time, we saw Bings, Rainiers, Lapins, Skeenas, Reginas and Sweethearts being harvested at the same elevations, all at the same time.  Here is a quick look at the 2015 season by the numbers:


  • The industry shipped for 77 days in 2015 as compared to 84 days in 2014 vs. 81 days in 2013 and 92 days in 2012
  • The industry shipped just over 12.2 million 20 lb. boxes in June (all time record)
  • The industry averaged 266,000 boxes per day for the duration of the 77 day season
  • The industry shipped over 400,000 boxes per day for 23 days in 2015
  • The industry shipped over 500,000 boxes per day for 11 days in 2015
  • Largest shipment day was June 25th – 594,744 boxes
  • Second largest shipment day was June 26th – 583,403
  • The Rainier cherry pack was 1.7 million 15 lb. equivalent boxes vs. 2.1 million 15 lb. equivalent boxes in 2014
  • The crop shipped to 70% domestic markets and 30% export markets
  • California finished shipping on June 8th and shipped 5.9 million 18 lb. equivalent boxes