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Cherry prices could rise this summer due to cold, wet pollinating season

Snow during the pollination period may reduce Washington's cherry crop.

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — The cold, wet spring may have been annoying, but for Mark Hanrahan, it could be costly.

The Yakima Valley grower said record-cold temperatures in April will likely cut his usual cherry crop in half, but he said it could be worse if more storms hit the northwest in late May or June.

“Money does grow on trees,” said Hanrahan, who said it was too cold for bees to naturally pollinate his cherry and pear trees. He tried mechanical pollination for some of his trees.

His Tieton cherry trees were hardest hit by the cold. At a time when small cherries are usually on every branch, he had a hard time finding any fruit. 

Hanrahan’s Early Robin trees are still recovering from record high temperatures last June.

He’s not alone.

“Talking to some of the older gentlemen in our industry,” said Hanrahan, “Many said they’d never seen a year like this, ever.”

Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said cherry farmers in the state, in an average year, produce 20 million boxes of cherries.

This year’s bounty is expected to be about 13.6 million boxes, said DeVaney.

“Bees do not like to play in the snow like the rest of us do,” said DeVaney.

He still expected most types of cherries to be available by July, but they will likely cost more than usual, said DeVaney.

“That’s not a bad thing for our growers who are having less fruit,” said DeVaney. “And are dealing with a lot of inflationary issues right now.”

Hanrahan said it looks like his Rainier cherries, which can be heartier, survived the cold spring.

“That’s why you use diversification,” said Hanrahan.

His father started the Zillah farm in 1966. Hanrahan is proud to only have one partner: Mother Nature.

“You deal with what you’re dealt with,” said Hanrahan, “And she deals a mean hand sometimes.”

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