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    Northwest Sweet Cherry Crop Exceeding Expectations

    YAKIMA, Wash. -- Harvest of the Northwest cherry crop is about to start, and early indications show high-quality fruit and good sizes, according to the region's leading growers.

    YAKIMA, Wash. -- Harvest of the Northwest cherry crop is about to start, and early indications show high-quality fruit and good sizes, according to the region's leading growers.

    Growers of early varieties, including Tieton and Chelan cherries, began harvesting over the weekend, while mainstream varieties, including Bing and Rainier cherries, will start coming off trees and heading to supermarkets this week. Harvest is expected to peak around June 27, a week later than in 2005.

    Excellent spring weather in key growing areas in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah has pushed estimates for this season to roughly 140,000 tons. Although cherry growers in the Pacific Northwest produced a record crop in 2005, the market was undersupplied by 20 percent to 25 percent, said B.J. Thurlby , president of the Washington State Fruit Commission. Given these market conditions, demand is expected to be strong both domestically and abroad.

    "Cherries are one of the few truly seasonal crops left," said Thurlby said. "So if you don't buy them during the summer, they're gone for another year. But the good news for consumers is that it looks like we'll have a steady volume of high-quality fruit from mid-June through mid-August. In fact, if the weather cooperates, more cherries may be sold from the Northwest in July this year than ever before."

    More than 2,500 growers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah have been selling their prize cherries for more than 100 years before they officially created the Northwest Cherry Growers in 1947. Today the United States is a world leader in sweet cherry production, with more than 70 percent coming from Northwest Cherry Growers.

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