Good Fruit Grower

December 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 95

Hort Shows 2013 Should 12-row cherries BE BANNED? Economist Des O'Rourke is studying the impact of 12-row cherries on the market. by Geraldine Warner S D New analysis But times have changed, says O'Rourke, who has been working on a new analysis this fall and will speak during the Washington State Horticultural Association's annual meeting on December 3 about the current influence of 12-row cherries on the market. O'Rourke, who heads Belrose, Inc., based in Pullman, Washington, said analyzing the effect is complex because the volume of 12-row cherries going to market varies by district and by season, and even from week to week. And, the size of the cherries is only one of many factors that affect pricing. Others include the total volume of shipments, cherry variety, price the previous week, rain during harvest, and whether the crop peaked before the July 4 holiday, which is the prime marketing window for Northwest cherries. In general, the industry is shipping larger cherries than it was in 2007, and the discount for the smaller cherries appears to be larger, O'Rourke said. However, there might be times in the season when the industry would want to ship 12-row cherries, such as if there's a gap after the California market season and a big demand from the marketplace, which would make it tricky to introduce a rule to ban them. 14 DECEMBER 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER "There seem to be some pretty powerful voices saying, 'Get rid of the 12 row permanently,' and some people who want to keep them for certain niche periods," O'Rourke said. B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers, said that during the 2013 season, 2 percent of the total crop were 12 row on average (3 percent in June, 2 percent in July, and 1 percent in August). In 2012, close to 8 percent were 12 row. "There are a lot of people thinking there's a 30-million-box crop out there and that the elimination of 12-row cherries would not hurt the industry dollarwise and would help to refocus the industry on the need to make sure they're pruning and thinning and doing everything horticulturally to produce high quality fruit from the very start of the season," he said. One of the arguments against eliminating 12-row cherries has been that in an effort to sort them out, packers would also lose a certain volume of 11½-row or 11-row cherries. But Thurlby said many packers have installed sophisticated electronic sorting systems that are far more accurate than the old ones. "You can pack any pack you want with —Des O'Rourke this new equipment," he said. "You're not throwing out 11 row with the 12 row any more. People who don't have this equipment yet are going to need this equipment in the next few years to be cost effective and stay in the packing business." Members of the Washington Cherry Marketing Committee will ponder the question when they meet on December 4 in Wenatchee. "There seem to be some pretty powerful voices saying, 'Get rid of the 12 row permanently,' and some people who want to keep them for certain niche periods." • PHOTO BY TU MULLINAX hould 12-row cherries—the smallest size packed and sold in the Pacific Northwest—be eliminated in an effort to improve grower returns? It's not a new idea. It's been debated for at least a decade, and, in 2007, agricultural economist Dr. Desmond O'Rourke did a detailed study to analyze the finanDes O'Rourke cial effect on the industry of removing 12-row cherries from the market. At the time, the Northwest was pror. Des O'Rourke will speak on ducing about 14 million boxes of cher"The Influence of 12 Row on ries annually. The proportion of 12-row the Northwest Cherry Market" Bing cherries going to market in the 2000s on December 3 at 4:05 p.m. during averaged about 10 percent, but varied the Washington State Horticultural from a high of 22 percent in 2004 to a low Association's annual meeting. of less than 2 percent in 2007. Prices for 12-row cherries averaged 20 to 30 percent less than for larger sizes. Growers producing a large proportion of 12-row Bings were finding it difficult to be profitable. O'Rourke calculated that eliminating all 12-row Bings would have increased f.o.b. prices for the remaining sizes, but not enough to offset the losses from a 10 percent reduction in supplies. Growers who had no 12-row cherries would have benefited the most by receiving higher prices with no reduction in their shipments. However, in the long run, if 12-row cherries were eliminated by using cultural practices in the orchard to shift them into a higher size category, there would be a gain in average prices and total revenue. If all the cherries were moved up half a row size, the benefit would be even greater. O'Rourke concluded that since 12-row cherries were only a marketing problem in certain years it made sense for the industry to help growers increase the size of their fruit over time rather than ban the 12-row cherry.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - December 2013