YAKIMA - Chinese tariff’s took a toll on the Washington cherry industry in 2018. According to the Capital Press, B.J. Thurlby of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima says the industry sustained a $106 million loss last year.

Thurlby spoke about the report’s impending release to hundreds of growers who were in attendance at the WSU Northcentral Washington Stone Fruit Day inside the Wenatchee Convention Center on Tuesday.

Trade data indicates that Northwest growers retailed 1.7 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries to China last year, a figure which reflects a drop of nearly 50 percent from 2017 when three million boxes were sold.

The 2018 total yield of 25.3 million boxes was the second largest in the industry’s long history, and with an equally robust crop projected for 2019, many growers are extremely concerned about the potential for further losses if the international battle over taxation isn’t soon resolved.

The Capital Press reports that the Washington cherry industry compensated for the tariffs by selling a portion of the fruit that would typically go to China elsewhere.  

About 1.7 million, 20-pound boxes of fresh sweet cherries were sold to China in 2018, down from 3 million boxes in 2017. Thurlby says 2018 sales could have been around 3 million boxes but the difference was sold to other countries. China accounted for only 26.3 of PNW exports, only to be topped by Canada at 33.3 percent. South Korea was at 14.6 percent and Taiwan at 10 percent. Southeast Asia was at 6.1 percent. Northwest cherry growers are eyeing India as a potentially good market but exporters remain apprehensive because importers want shipments of cherries sent by boat rather than flown which doesn’t work well with fumigation requirements according to Thurlby. 

The Northwest Cherry Growers Commission is planning to invest half-a-million dollars into the promotion of buyer-incentives in the Chinese marketplace this year.

In an article released on Tuesday by the Capital Press, Thurlby said, “People ask me what the number one issue is with cherries and I say Little Cherry Disease and Western X (cherry virus) but No. 2 is losing China. We’ve spent a lot building it up and this (tariff) is allowing other countries a foothold in what we built.”

Other nations which are not impacted by the same or similar tariffs from China saw their 2018 returns on cherries increase, including countries like Kazakhstan, Turkey and Chile.

Washington State University will soon publish a detailed study with harder numbers on how the tariff impacted the cherry market.

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