“Average” tart cherry crop could threaten summertime desserts

There may be fewer cherry pies to enjoy this summer if U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates come true.

Cherries bought by USDA

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) crop production forecast for tart cherries is estimated to be “average” this year—especially when compared side-by-side with last year’s crop.

The USDA estimates a tart cherry crop of 203 million pounds in 2023. The crop in 2022 was just over 244 million pounds.

“Obviously, that sounds like a lot of cherries—and it is a lot of cherries, don’t get me wrong—but if you look at just recent years, really the last three or four seasons, have been a bit smaller than what we had seen in the years leading up to that,” said Lance Honig with the National Ag Statistics Service.

Cold snaps in Michigan, the nation’s largest tart cherry-producing state, left some crops damaged from frost. That caused a 60-million-pound reduction from the previous year.

On the other hand, Northwestern growers are excited about their cherry crop. Last month, BJ Thurlby, president of the Northwest Cherry Growers, told RFD-TV the region’s haul was just shy of 20 million boxes (20 pounds each), which he said is one of the best crops of his career.

“You know, last year’s crop was 13.3 million, and was the shortest crop in the last 15 years—so, we’re definitely going to have more fruit this year and that’s good news for the grower [and] good news for the consumer,” Thurlby said. “We’re excited about that portion of the story. Everyone we’ve spoken to, whether we’re talking Korea, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Thailand—I mean everybody—the first thing, when we sit down at the table with them is: we need cherries this year. We really—after last year—we really need cherries.”

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