California won’t have enough cherries to meet Memorial Day demand

From Fresh Plaza | 15 May 2023

Overview of cherries from California in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on May 15, 2023. 

California’s cherry harvest has barely gotten underway. The early varieties have just started, which is about 2.5 to three weeks later than normal. “It has been so cold,” says Ira Greenstein of Direct Source Marketing. “The last six to eight weeks, the weather has been cold and rainy. Even last week, temperatures in Fresno were in the mid-50s and low 60s,” Greenstein added. Finally, this week it’s warming up nicely with temperatures reaching the mid-80s.

This late start puts a lot of pressure on growers and packers as the upcoming Memorial Day (May 29) is a big cherry holiday. “Retailers have been planning their promotions that typically start a week before and unfortunately, they won’t be getting the volumes they need.” This results in a lot of pressure on growers to get going, but peak volumes won’t be available until the last week of May and the first week of June.

cherry volumes by histor 6

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

Spot pricing

Shortage of product has resulted in very high pricing on the spot market. “A 10.5 row cherry on the spot market now generates $95 – $100/box,” shared Greenstein. As more volume comes on, spot pricing will come down, but next week it is still expected to be above $70/box. “This is a challenging situation for growers as pricing locked in at retail is around $60-$65/box and retailers are asking to have their programs covered.” Greenstein expects things to settle down by May 29, but until then, it will be tough.

On the bright side, with a projected harvest of 8+ million boxes and good quality fruit, California is expecting a sizeable cherry crop. While the state saw some rain last week, the fruit was still not mature enough to be impacted. With the extended weather forecast looking good, everyone is waiting to get going and hoping to move significant volumes within a time frame of six to seven weeks. “Everything should align for promotions throughout the month of June.”

Transition to Washington

Just like California, the Washington crop will be late as well. This is positive for California growers as it gives them extra time to market their crop. Usually, Washington state is the cherry supplier for the 4th of July holiday, but this year, both states are expected to be in the market. California’s harvest will be done by the last week of June, but volume is expected to be available until July 4 while Washington will just be starting up at that time.

Between May 15 and June 5, the spot market is expected to come down more than $25/box. From about $80 to $55, which is quite uncommon according to Greenstein. “Normally, there is a more steady flow of fruit to market, but with so much volume coming on during a short period of time, sharper drops in pricing are expected.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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