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Borton anxiously awaits upcoming cherry season

Yakima, WA-based producer Borton & Sons is moving into the 2011 cherry season on a note of cautious optimism. David Whiteside, part of the company’s sales team, said the company planted a total of 1,000 acres to cherries this season, up from the roughly 815 acres farmed in 2010.

As is true for the growing region, cooler weather has had an impact upon production. “It’s been a cold spring which has delayed bloom,” Mr. Whiteside told The Produce News May 13. “Temperatures have been lower than normal, and the November freeze did some damage to trees.”

Production is expected to be delayed from typical timetables in 2011. “An approximate guess would be beginning around June 15 through June 20 and then ending mid-August,” Mr. Whiteside said about the harvest. “It’s too early to tell what kind of volume we will have. But the approximate estimate we are at right now is around 330,000 cases.” He went on to say the actual number could vary as production ramps up.

Product is grown in Washington’s Columbia Basin, Yakima Valley and Wenatchee Valley. The company handles mainline varieties such as Bings, Skeenas, Chelans and Rainiers. This season, Borton & Sons will add the Benton cherry variety to its manifest. “We’ve planted some orchards with Early Red Robins and Coral Champagnes,” he noted. “But those won’t be ready for production this year.”

Borton & Sons markets cherries under the “Snow Chief” label throughout North America and exports approximately 15 percent of its crop to markets in Taiwan, China and Mexico. “Due to the late harvest, we are hoping to set up some promotions for after the Fourth of July,” he added.

Despite a troublesome economy, shoppers enthusiastically receive Northwest cherries when they are available. Mr. Whiteside was asked about consumer trends. “We have noticed each year that more retailers are moving over to buying cherry clamshells instead of bags,” he replied.