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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Crunching the cherry numbers: 2017 might be a record harvest

Maria Padilla plucks a cherry from a tree at the Rowe Farms near Naches, Wash., on July 8, 2008. (Gordon King / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Maria Padilla plucks a cherry from a tree at the Rowe Farms near Naches, Wash., on July 8, 2008. (Gordon King / Yakima Herald-Republic)
By Donald W. Meyers Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA – As the cherry harvest goes into its “second peak,” an industry representative said 2017 appears to be on track to be a record year.

Producers have shipped an average of 536,392 20-pound boxes of cherries daily from July 1 to July 20, said Northwest Cherry Growers marketing Vice President James Michael.

By comparison, 478,338 cherry boxes were shipped daily over the same time period in 2014, when the season record of 23.2 million boxes was set.

“We’ve picked through the early varieties and are working on the late-season” cherries, Michael said.

Despite a late start to the cherry season due to a cold, wet spring, growers in the Northwest U.S. are expecting to ship 24.75 million boxes of the tree fruit.

The first peak in the harvest occurred in June, when Rainier and Bing cherries come on. The second peak started this month as Lapins, Skeena, Sweetheart and Regina varieties started to be picked, Michael said.

Even with a late start, Michael said growers were able to ship sufficient fruit to market in time for Independence Day, a major fruit-buying holiday. Cherries represented 12 percent of all fruit ads, with table grapes in second place at 11 percent, according to cherry growers.

From the start of the cherry season to July 20, 18.5 million boxes of cherries have been shipped by Northwest growers, which includes orchards in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Montana, according to industry data.

Of those states, Washington produces more than 85 percent of the cherries shipped, making it the leading cherry producer in the nation, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

Within Washington, Yakima County is the largest producer of sweet cherries, according to Washington State University.

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