YAKIMA, Washington — Northwest cherry growers expect a 2013 crop of 18 million boxes, well short of last year's record 23 million boxes, but the average cherry size should be larger and the harvest is expected to start sooner.
Growers and marketers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah released their crop estimate Wednesday, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported (http://bit.ly/183ZvrT ).
Washington is the largest producer of fresh cherries, with an expected crop of 14 million boxes. A box of cherries weighs 20 pounds.
This year's crop is shrinking because of cool, blustery weather during pollination, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Fruit Commission.
"The first part of the bloom period turned cold and windy," he said.
The lighter set, however, should mean larger average fruit size. "Quality will be off the charts," Thurlby said.
The harvest is expected to begin around June 2 in warmer areas near the Columbia River, and consumers should see plenty of cherries in markets by the Fourth of July.
The cherry crop is expected to be similar to 2011 when the five states shipped about 18 million boxes.
Northwest cherry growers export about 30 percent of their fruit, according to USDA figures. Canada is the top export market for Northwest cherries, followed by Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com