The Pacific Northwest cherry season is set to begin with the season lasting from the first week of June until the end of August. Cherries are ripened on the tree and are harvested, packed, and on the retailer’s shelves within 2-3 days.  The industry speculates that there will be anywhere between 16-22 million boxes of cherries produced in the 2020 season. There may be some reduced volumes due to Little Cherry Virus and an early frost that occurred in some growing regions.

There are several risk factors that are prevalent when transporting cherries. They are high value loads that are extremely sensitive and require expert handling and must adhere to strict good arrival guidelines.

Risk factors include:

  • Physical injury – compression and impact can result in pitting which is characterized by an indentation in the surface of the fruit caused by the collapse of cells under the skin. Physical injury can also cause widespread bruising on the fruit.  
  • Increase temperature – postharvest life of cherries is directly related to respiration rate, and respiration rate increases with increased temperature. It is key that cherries are cooled and transported at the correct temperature to avoid shortening their postharvest life.
  • Chilling damage – when cherries are stored or transported at an excessively low temperature, irregular, brown and somewhat sunken spots appear on the surface of the fruit. It can take up to 2-3 weeks for this damage to show.
  • Humidity/Moisture – external moisture (including rain) will cause water absorption and bursting of the product skin.  
  • Odor – cherries are highly odor-sensitive and must not be stored with other odor-emitting products.
  • Ventilation – transportation must be performed with specific temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions. Like most other produce shipments, they require continuous circulating air within a refrigerated trailer.
  • Ethylene Sensitivity – cherries are classified as low on the ethylene sensitive scale. But, to prevent premature spoilage, it is advisable not to store cherries with apples, pears, or citrus fruit.
  • Insect infestation/Diseases – blue mold rot, gray mold rot, and brown rot are diseases that affect cherries, with blue mold rot being the most damaging. Its important to remove all fruit that shows signs of rot so that it does not affect other product. The cherry fruit fly can cause rot as well, so infestation of this type must be eliminated.
  • Contamination – cherries are sensitive to dirt, fats, and oils. Packaging materials and refrigerated trailers must be clean before loading.

Loss Prevention Tips

So, with the season quickly beginning, let’s review some key loss prevention tips regarding the commodity:

  • Keep in mind that there can be delays as the packing house builds up cherry product and properly cool it prior to shipping.
  • Drivers must have a pulp thermometer and a camera phone. Drivers must pulp and take pictures of cherries and thermometer. The photos must be sent to UWT.
  • Driver must call UWT right away before leaving the warehouse to communicate pulp temperatures/confirm we received pictures and confirm they are ok to leave. If pulps are out of range, the driver must wait until they are given permission to release the truck by UWT’s Customer.
  • Remember cherries are extremely delicate and expensive; a full load can get up to $150,000 cargo value. Carrier companies must make sure that they have the insurance to cover this cargo value by checking with UWT.
  • The temperature of the shipment is determined by the UWT/Customer unless otherwise notified. All temperatures must be set as continuous, not cycle-sentry.
  • A temperature recording device must be placed on the truck; it must be turned on and placement should be per manufacturer’s recommendation. Our CSR department will call to confirm that one was placed on the truck, to make sure that the serial number of the device matches the BOL, and to confirm the device is turned on. If a temperature recorder was not loaded, stop and call right away.
  • If drivers are not allowed on the loading dock to confirm the pulp temperatures, take photos, and ensure temperature recorder placement, UWT must be notified immediately so that we can contact our customer and get permission to depart. “Shipper Load and Count” must be written on the BOL by the driver. If there are no seals on the truck, the driver must pull over after leaving shipper and pulp immediately and call UWT with this information.

2020 is shaping up to be another great cherry season, and there will be many opportunities for retailers to promote right through till early September.

Cherry Season – 2020 Outlook, Risk Factors and Loading Guides was last modified: by