January 12, 1997 in Nation/World

Study Predicts Bigger State Cherry Crop

Associated Press

The state’s cherry growers could find themselves routinely producing crops of more than 80,000 tons within five years.

Jim Fitch, an economist hired by the Washington State Fruit Commission to look at production trends, said last week the growth reflects a 30 percent increase in plantings in recent years.

The state has more than 14,800 acres planted in cherries now, so the record production of 82,700 tons in 1992 is likely to become an average amount in the near future.

It could become difficult to sell that amount if quality drops, said Tom Mathison, owner of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee.

He told the annual Cherry Institute in Yakima that growers are paying more attention to cost control than delivering the best product, causing about half the cherries to arrive in the market in mediocre condition.

There are danger signs, he said.

Export sales have been disappointing, per capita consumption is falling and more cherries are winding up with processors, he said.

Growers should spend more money working to improve quality, he said.

“Growers should forget about the pennies they will save on harvest or pruning and look at the sales side of the equation,” Mathison said.

Fitch made his analysis based on interviews with nurseries and with six major warehouses that account for half the total cherry production in the state.

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