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CMI's Northwest cherry season starts strong

The second week of CMI Orchards’ Northwest cherry harvest is under way and off to a strong start. CMI released a new report highlighting some of the biggest opportunities of the season ahead.Skylar-Rae1

Steve Castleman, vice president of sales at CMI Orchards, said he is thrilled with the eating quality and appearance of CMI’s crop this year. “Our cherries ripened up a few days earlier than expected as the weather has really been favorable this spring,” he said. “Lots of sunshine and warm temperatures have brought the color and sugars up, and we’re looking at a superior harvest with sweet, vibrant and high-quality fruit for the duration of the season.”

Castleman reported that the company has many exciting things in the works affording retailers big opportunities for capturing sales for the short cherry season.

AMERICAN DREAM CHERRIES
CMI's exclusive American Dream cherry program has launched in U.S. and export markets, with retailers from state to state participating in alignment with summer and Independence Day promotions in their stores.

Scott Agnew, director of export programs at CMI, has been surprised by the response to the program in China. “We knew this program was a home run with our domestic retail partners; however, we never anticipated how well the program would be received in Asia, especially China,” he said. “Our retail partners are excited and we’re eager to see the program gain traction both domestically and in Asia.”

CMI is shipping the program in five-kilogram and 18-pound cartons. A portion of sales from each box goes toward military and veteran programs, customized to each retailer. CMI is expecting tremendous success for the program as retailers start preparing for Independence Day promotions.

SKYLAR RAE CHERRIES
According to CMI, harvest is officially under way for the company’s very first crop of Skylar Rae cherries.

Shane Marston, one of CMI’s domestic sales managers, reports that customers are in for a treat with this amazing cherry variety. “They are big, bright, blushing and sweet as can be,” he said. “Skylar Rae cherries are truly outstanding and unlike any other cherry available. When you bite into one, you’ll be amazed at how crunchy and firm they are. They’re just bursting with sweetness and a perfect hint of acid to give them a truly complex flavor. There’s no other cherry on the market that compares!”

CMI joined forces with Stemilt this year to grow and market Skylar Rae cherries, originally discovered by the Toftness family in Washington state. They are available in a one-pound clamshell or pouch bag, and supply is limited.

“The season will be over before we know it, so get them while you can,” Marston said, urging retailers to reach out to CMI for more information.

NORTHWEST CROP UPDATE
Tim Welsh, a general manager on the orchard side of Columbia Fruit Packers (one of four grower-packer companies that owns CMI Orchards), has been in the orchard business for 37 years, specializing in cherries and apples. “We had very little wind this growing season so our fruit is nice and clean. We haven’t experienced any significant rain events, and the amount of sunshine and hot, dry days has produced exceptional fruit.”

According to Welsh, sizing will be mixed with a range of small to extra large at the beginning of the season. “As the season progresses, our cherries continue to get larger and larger, and by July we should see a lot more large fruit than typical,” he said. “The early districts were warmer and ripened fruit sooner, so the congestion we were expecting has spaced out a little. But we’ll soon see a huge promotable volume between the end of June and the end of July.”

HUGE PROMOTABLE VOLUME
Castleman explained that this timing is great news for retailers. “We will have excellent promotable volume during the biggest opportunity for cherry sales in alignment with Independence Day celebrations,” he said. “Good timing, exceptional flavor and high quality — this season is shaping up in all the best ways to be a monumental Northwest cherry season.”