Stonefruits: US Cherries Enter Prime Season with Optimal Harvest, Spanish Nectarines Face Low Harvest Despite High Demand

Published Apr 23, 2020
US cherries are expecting an optimal harvest this season after years of poor weather conditions. Exports are expected to increase with lower tariffs in China. Spanish nectarines on the other hand are expecting a decrease in harvest fueled by labor shortages despite the increase in demand.

Cherry - United States

The Season of fresh cherry in the US

Washington, California, and Oregon are the primary sweet cherry producing states, accounting for almost 90 percent of the quantity produced nationwide. California cherries are the first of the season, starting in April with the Brooks variety, which can tolerate the warmer climate in Bakersfield. The marketing season for sweet cherries in California is April 25 to June 15; for Montana, it is July 20 to August 20; and for all other states, it is from June to July.

Harvest Estimates for 2019/2020

U.S. production is anticipated to remain steady at 450K tons as good growing conditions for sweet cherries offsets a biennial off-year decline in cyclical tart cherry production.

Recent years have brought a number of challenges to cherry growers in California. A near-record 9.5 million boxes were produced in 2017, while 2018 production was down to 4 million boxes due to a freeze during bloom. In 2019, the season was marred by record rains in May, which diminished the harvest to 5.25 million boxes, about half of the year’s original forecast. There were also temperature fluctuations affecting dormancy.

Tule fogs that hover at ground level during the rainy, cool winter months in the Central Valley, may also be a culprit in the 2020 season. There is, however, little disagreement on last season’s biggest challenge: rain.

Export Trends in Recent Years

Exports and production from 2017-2019 were slow, in which a large part was owed to tariffs implemented by China. However, on March 2, China lowered tariffs on Californian cherries from 55% to 25%, and US suppliers expect to increase shipments this year.

Nectarine/Peach - Spain

The Season for Spanish Nectarines / Peaches

The harvest season for Spanish nectarines and peaches is expected to start two weeks earlier than last year in mid-April in the Murcia, Catalunya, and Aragón region and is expected to finish in mid-to-late May. Spain shows a very consistent nectarine export season from March to October, with the peak period from May to September.

Harvest Estimates for 2020

The yield for this year is projected to be at 508 million kg, which is a 20% decrease in volume compared to last year. Suppliers are expecting an even bigger decrease in harvest volume for the upcoming months due to labor shortages from COVID-19 during its peak harvest season. Nevertheless, the quality of the fruits is expected to be very good due to a short and relatively hot winter.

Export Trends in Recent Years

Spain is the biggest exporter of nectarines and peaches, with its main export markets being European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The total export volume of Spanish nectarines and peaches were at 829.4K tons in 2019, at an export value of USD 874.8 million. The demand for the fruits have increased by 23% in 2020 compared to last year, 27% of which is for processed fruits. The country is also thinking of expanding to Latin American markets such as Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as China.

Export Outlook for 2020

This season is expected to be a difficult one as while Spain has not implemented any major restrictions, there are severe labor shortages as migrant workers from Morocco, Ukraine, and Belarus cannot enter the country due to enhanced restrictions from COVID-19. It is estimated that up to 40% of the labor force will be impacted, and the government is allowing immigrants and jobless citizens to be employed in order to offset the gap.

Price Trends for the 2020 Season

Due to increased demand and shortages of workers, the average wholesale price for nectarines has increased from January to April this year compared to the same period last year, with both varieties: Yellow and White experiencing changes of at least 43%: Yellow nectarine prices increased from EUR 1.50 to EUR 2.15 (USD 1.62 to USD 2.32), and White nectarine prices increased from EUR 1.50 to EUR 2.13 (USD 1.62 to USD 2.30). 

The Graphs Indicate Export Volumes for HS Code 080920: Cherries, fresh, HS Code 080930: Peaches including Nectarines, fresh

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