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This Year, It's a Cherries (and Apricot) Jubilee

May 07, 1997|RUSS PARSONS

Break out the banners and strike up the band. California apricots and cherries are heading back into the supermarkets this year. After back-to-back disaster years, harvests should finally be back to normal for both fruits.

In fact, things might even be a little better than normal. For both cherries and apricots, this year's projected harvests are better than 1995's and 1996's totals combined.

Perhaps more than any other fruit, cherries and apricots are temperamental things. A little too hot, a little too cold, a little too wet, a little too dry--any of those things can throw off the harvest.

In 1995, it was cool, damp weather that disrupted pollination. (Contrary to the song, bees don't do it, not when it's rainy.) In 1996, it was a warm, dry winter that spoiled flower set.

This year, everything went pretty much the way it's supposed to. As a result, the projected cherry harvest is around 31,500 tons; fresh apricots, about 24,000 tons.

Neither are records, but they compare most favorably with cherry harvests of 10 million and 16 million tons and fresh apricot harvests of 12,000 and 15,000 tons, respectively, in 1995 and 1996.

"This is what we really need," says Jim Culbertson of the California Cherry Advisory Board. "Even more important than the size, we've had two years of diminished quality and we need an opportunity like this year to produce a good cherry crop."

In fact, shoppers may have forgotten what a California cherry even looks like. Because they are such a hot draw on the export market (in Japan, in particular), when harvests are tight, most cherries go where the money is--overseas. In fact, in 1995, about 80% of California's cherries were exported.

A little quick math tells you that left only about 2,000 tons of cherries for the U.S. Because of the bigger 1997 harvest, exports will get a smaller share, 40% to 45%, experts predict. That means roughly 17,000 tons for us.

Thus the volume of cherries in your local supermarket will increase by much more than even those promising raw harvest statistics would indicate.

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