Stemilt Growers' Roger Pepperl Discusses an Active Cherry Market
- by Kayla Webb
WENATCHEE, WA - This season’s ch-ch-ch-cherry crop has almost been unleashed, and Stemilt Growers is getting prepped and ready to make sure that shoppers everywhere won’t be able to stay at home (or school)—you know, because they’ll be stocking up on cherries. While the delayed start to spring has pushed the season back, Roger Pepperl, Marketing Director, assured me that there’s no reason that this season shouldn’t still be cherrific!
“We look to start cherry season the beginning of May. Usually, we start the last week of April, but the delayed spring has set the timing back in California. We will start with some Tulare and quickly move to Garnets and then Hazel varieties,” Roger shared with me. “We anticipate a good year. It is too early to really know, but we are set up for a good crop, which should give us good sizing and crop loads. In fact, the crop should tower over last season as many orchards that blanked out last year look to have set well.”
Roger also disclosed that the volume of cherries is the best Stemilt has seen. And, when coupled with the high demand season Stemilt is expecting for California cherries—particularly because the Northwest growing region is going to be late this year—retailers should expect an active market from early May through mid-June.
While heavy rain in California had many of us avid produce followers biting our nails in worry, Roger noted that the only real problem the grower is facing because of a moody Mother Nature is the delay in start dates, especially that of promotion periods.
“Mother’s Day ads are really not in the cards for volume and pricing,” Roger explained. “Retailers should be talking with their sales person several times a week right now. Do not hang on to the dreaded Produce History book because it will doom your potential if you write promotions off of historical data. The produce industry is changing so fast now. We need to dwell on the future not the past. Orchard locations have changed and so have varieties and timing. For example, we had a lot of rain, but it seems to have avoided the pollination times. But, fruit is really going to be a solid week late or more.”
But, there is still a lot to look forward to when it comes to cherries! Roger revealed that come June, Stemilt will end its California season with its premium “5 River Islands” cherries, which hail from the delta Island region.
“This is a unique opportunity to end the California season with a bang and transition to our Washington State growing regions with seamless quality. We also will have a great Rainier cherry program, which offers good opportunities for promotion on a great cherry,” Roger concluded.
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