It was not a good beginning for cherries in the Pacific Northwest.
May and June rains hit hard during the opening harvest, notes the Northwest Farm Credit Services, which reports "substantial" damage to early and mid-season crops, particularly among bings
The bad news is that a crop anticipated to be about 23 million boxes is not a stretch to harvest 16 million, says Northwest.
Some orchards experienced total loss, the bank reports, as rain not only delayed harvest, but also caused fruit to split and crack. Lower sugar content also rendered part of the crop unmarketable.
It was a season when fans, helicopters and spray applications that had to be used above and beyond the normal management parameters lowers profit margins.
Early season Washington prices were about $70 a ton, which helped recoup some of the added costs and losses for growers. However, averages fell to as low as $50 more currently, reflecting a difficult level to pencil profitability.
"The level of profitability for cherry growers is uncertain this year," say Northwest crop watchers. The high cost of rain damage control, coupled with crop losses in the early season will pressure growers' margins, says the co-op. An early July heat wave did not improve crop quality prospects
If prices continue to slide from their peak harvest $50 level, unprofitability may stalk the industry.
That price decline is predictable in terms of what has happened at harvest peak in the last several years, notes Northwest.
Grower will probably reconsider picking the crop if prices slide below current levels, and August harvest volumes are already expected to be lighter than usual, which may in turn provide some price support for late season markets
Observations from Northwest on current crop status is discussed in the Services' Knowledge Center Cherry Market Snapshot which includes information on 17 industries and periodic special reports at northwestfcs.com/resources.