Transporting the Pacific Northwest’s record cherry harvest

The cherry harvest this year tore up the record books. Here's how these delicate fruits are transported thousands of miles in good condition

One of the world’s big perishable trade shows opens its doors in Hong Kong in early September. Asia Fruit Logistica will occupy two halls of the AsiaWorld-Expo, hosting 800 exhibitors showcasing their produce and services.

The annual event opens as the US Pacific Northwest’s cherry harvest winds down.

The cherry harvest this year tore up the record books. Around 26 million 20lb boxes of delicious, plump and fleshy cherries were harvested during the summer season – that’s around 236,000 tonnes. Of these 36% were exported. The primary markets are China, which usurped Canada for the first time, followed by South Korea, Taiwan and Mexico.

Keith Hu, Director of International Operations at the Northwest Cherry Growers (NWCG) says: ‘We achieved our long-term goal of making China our leading export market this year. I always knew there was potential for China to surpass Canada, it was just a matter of when. The NWCG has done well in the first-tier Chinese cities, but this season we saw large growth from second-tier cities as well. China’s new position as the leading market is a very positive development, as we definitely need these export markets to continue to grow to absorb these large crops.’

Cathay Pacific Cargo’s transpacific routes have been carrying the delicate fruit from airports on the west coast including Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles – and the freighter-only station of Portland, from where Patrick Or, Cargo Manager Pacific Northwest USA, reports: ‘We moved 970 tonnes of cherries over a nine-week period.’

That contributed to a total of approximately 4,000 tonnes shipped by Cathay Pacific this year.

Patrick Allen is manager and franchise owner of Pilot Freight Service’s Washington (state) offices and one of Cathay Pacific’s key customers there. ‘Europe is the second market after Asia for us, but it is a distant second,’ says. The company is expert in trucking and shipping the tonnes of the ever-popular Bing, the early cropping Chelan, the yellow Rainier and the late season mahogany red Lapin varieties to the west coast airports for export.

Harvested in an intense three month period over the summer, these are delicate fruits that need to be transported thousands of miles. A reminder of how they get from tree to market in good condition follows on the infographic below.