The cherry production in many countries has been hampered by poor weather conditions, with Spain being battered by heavy rains and pollination being affected by winds in North America.
Other countries, however, have seen record productions, with South Africa experiencing its largest production of cherries ever. In Australia, Tasmanian cherry exports have risen by 40% this season.
The Netherlands: Delayed start to cherry season
With the cold spring weather, the expectations for this year’s cherry harvest were not high, but nevertheless, the Netherlands will have a good harvest this year.
However, the harvest has been considerably delayed this year due to the cold spring weather. The early cherries are being picked now, but the main varieties are still waiting.
Exporters also see increasing potential in the export of the firm Dutch cherries. Dutch growers look forward to the season with confidence.
For some growers in the Central Netherlands, the season started poorly and instead of cherries being picked, debris was cleared away after last Friday’s storm.
It is estimated that an area of 15 hectares suffered severe storm and hail damage.
Italy: Interesting prices for Italian cherries due to varying conditions in growing regions
The 2021 cherry campaign in Apulia, characterised by above-average yields, low prices, small to medium sizes and daily protests, is expected to end in the last days of June/beginning of July.
At the moment, the variety in harvest is Ferrovia, with prices paid to the producer ranging from 1.00 to 1.50 €/kg for sizes of 24-26 mm.
In week 24 of 2021, harvesting intensified in the Campania region, where higher temperatures during the week accelerated the ripening process and boosted harvesting operations.
The larger quantities that reached the markets were matched by a moderate demand and prices showed a decline.
In the north of Italy, production was heavily affected, depending on the area, by the spring frosts. A lot of production was lost, up to 50%, especially in the lowland areas of Emilia Romagna, but also in the hills in Veneto.
Prices for large-sized cherries are very interesting. Well-processed and sized fruits will be increasing well priced in the coming weeks.
High-density planting, with plants placed every 50 centimetres in the row and which can be managed without ladders, is becoming established. This allows for lower harvesting costs and larger fruit.
Spain: Heavy rains batter Spanish cherry growing regions
The abundant rains during the last week damaged the cherry orchards in El Jerte, Extremadura, the largest cherry growing area in Spain.
The harvest was at its peak when the rains unloaded so, depending on the area and the altitude and how ripe the fruit was on the trees the cracking damages go from 20 to 40% of the production.
Picota varieties, the stemless ones, have been also significantly damaged as their harvest was about to start, they will reach the markets next week with consistent volumes.
El Jerte cherry campaign will have still 3 more weeks to go. Other growing areas have been also affected by rains in Spain, particularly in Aragon.
In general, the cherry demand and prices are good although sales to wholesale markets are still lower than the years prior to the pandemic.
South Africa: Strong season with largest crop yet for South Africa
The total production for 2020/2021 was approximately 900 tonnes and exports around 440 tonnes, the biggest cherry crop South Africa has ever had.
73% of that went to the United Kingdom, 8% to Europe and 8% to the Middle East, 5% to Africa.
During the 2019/20 season the total production was 624t of which 23% was exported (less than the year before, 2018/19), 63% were for the local market and 7% were for processing.
Most of the exports are to the UK, followed by Europe and the Middle East, from around week 40 to week 51. A bit is also sent to Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.
In the five years leading up to 2020 there was a 98% growth in cherry hectares in South Africa. There are 520 hectares of cherries in South Africa, primarily around Ceres (Western Cape).
One cherry grower is still expanding their cherry orchards but at a slower rate than previously, licensing a number of new growers in the north of the country.
China: Excessive rainfall severely affected open-field cherries
Currently, the Yantai region is harvesting open-field cherries. Excessive rainfall at the beginning of June has severely affected the crops and as a result, around 70% of the cherries have been split open, particularly those of the Early Beauty variety. The quality of the substandard Early Beauty big cherries was very poor.
The quantity of the Early Beauty big cherries of good quality is very small, leading to very high prices, as the retail price can reach 36 yuan per kg.
In Yantai, one of the biggest domestic production regions, glasshouse cherries only account for less than 1% which means nearly all crops could be easily affected by uncontrollable factors, such as weather conditions.
At this stage, imported cherries are mainly arriving from the United States. This year, the output of large cherries in the North-Western United States is around 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes, supplying the Chinese market from June to mid-August.
The main large cherry cultivar from United States is Bing. This variety is gaining higher popularity on Chinese market.
The current wholesale price of 9R size American cherry is about 600 yuan for one piece (5kg) or 120 yuan for 1kg. On the e-commerce platform, the general selling price of American big cherries is higher than 180 yuan/kg.
North America: High expectations for North American season with good quality
“We had a nice cold winter, but some losses in April after it warmed up when the temperature dropped 60 degrees Fahrenheit or so at night and it got below freezing,” a Washington-based cherry grower describes the growing season for Northwest cherries.
The wind was also a challenge for the pollination process. “Even if the wind subsides quickly and you have great weather for bees, the viability of that pollen will still decrease due to the wind. I think we have a little bit of a diminished fruit set this year,” they note.
Then came May. While the temperatures dropped down into the 70 degrees with some added wind and rain, the grower says early season cherries were pretty well protected.
That said, the cherry crop looks better for 2021 with a projected 22.4 million boxes. The cool weather has both delayed and slowed the start of Northwest cherries.
Despite this, reports of quality are strong with dark colored cherries with good sugars. “Sizing on early fruit was a bit of a challenge. They didn’t size up like we’d hoped for,” he says, noting early Chelans were sizing up but that slowed with that cool weather.
“But in the early season, growers are transitioning to Bings and most of those are in the typical range. It’s a bit divided–some growers have larger fruit than normal while others have smaller fruit.”
The yellow cherry crop is also looking to have a stronger 2021 season as well following 2020’s supplies which were short by approximately one million boxes thanks to windstorms blemishing the fruit.
As for pricing, it is stronger to date–a trend he hopes will continue.
In British Columbia, a much-improved crop over that of 2020 is also anticipated, thanks to a growing season with moderate temperatures, very little rain or wind which made ideal circumstances for pollination and cell division. The crop has a strong fruit set with a good size profile with good volumes.
One BC grower says the low-level rain and lots of sun has made for a crop with good sizing, sugars and color for good-eating cherries.
Harvest will start with small volumes in early July with full volume ramping up in mid-July. The grower anticipates starting with early varieties Suite Note and Santina between July 1 – 3.
Other varietal notes include the fact that Kordia and Regina are two varieties that are extremely popular in China, Southeast Asia and Europe and Regina has been planted across many of the company’s farms and acreage has expanded.
“Today, this variety makes up 17 percent of our planted acreage,” the BC grower states. Harvest of Regina is expected to run from July 19 until August 10. Some of the later varieties that won’t start shipping until August include Staccato, Sovereign, and Sentennial.
Demand for BC cherries is expected to be high.
Australia: Tasmanian exports up 40% on last season, export time to Vietnam cut to 72 hours
Australia’s cherry season wrapped up in early March and despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, exports from the state of Tasmania in the 2020/21 season were up 40 per cent on the previous year, and were the second-largest on record.
Tasmania leads nationally, with 51 per cent of national cherry exports coming from the state, more than all the other states put together.
Worth $43.6 million to the economy, the largest market for Tasmanian cherries by volume and value, remains Hong Kong. This was followed by Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Thailand.
These five leading markets account for 80 per cent of the cherry exports from Tasmania in 2020/21.
Meanwhile, Australian cherries exporters to Vietnam were earlier this year given access to two onshore irradiation facilities which will increase speed to market and decrease export freight costs for farmers in southern growing regions.
Vietnam has provided interim approval to receive produce from Australia’s newly established Merrifield irradiation treatment facility in Melbourne and this will enable increased trade of cherries and reduce transport costs for producers in southern Australia.
In some cases, Australian fruit will be arriving in Vietnam just 72 hours after picking.
Afghanistan: Revival for Afghan cherry market
There is a growing demand for Afghanistan cherries, both on the domestic market and overseas. The current harvest is promising, and the demand is increasing each year. Cherries are grown by small-landholding farmers as well as commercial producers.
Once in high demand in Afghanistan, the cherry was almost completely wiped out during decades of war and drought beginning in the late 1970s.
But with the introduction of new cultivars, better orchard management techniques and an improved supply chain network, sweet cherries are being revived.
Afghan farmers are planting more cherry orchards than ever before owing to the growing demand for the fruit. The common rootstock is Mahaleb and Gisela 5.
From the 22 types of sweet cherries available, Burlat, Santina, Stella, Black star, Grace star, and Bing are most common.
Sweet cherries require cooler growing temperatures and are common in the Paghman, Wardak, Kabul, and Panjshir provinces. They ripen in mid-May and are harvested through the end of June.
India is the lead market overseas for Afghan cherries.