US-China trade war shifts cherry season haul’s destinations

Cherry season is officially underway as growers, carriers and logistics providers are working to transport the seasonal perishable through networks to consumers worldwide. Beyond initial weather challenges to crops, growers and airfreight operators say markets for cherries this year have shifted due to volatility from the U.S.-China trade war. 

Winter weather this year caused an initial delay in the shipping of cherries by about a week, but a strong start to summer weather in the Pacific Northwest pushed the crop forward to normal growth, according to Pacific Northwest growers. The growers also say they have already shipped 6 million boxes, on track with estimated figures, and expect the crop to yield between 20 to 22 million boxes total this year. 

Like uncontrollable weather, the U.S.-China trade war has also impacted markets for cherry season.  

Although China was the top international market for cherries two years ago, President of the Northwest Cherry Growers association, B.J. Thurlby, told Air Cargo World that this year, “We really aren’t shipping as many cherries to China as we used to now that the country has imposed agricultural tariffs on the U.S.” He added, “It’s really taken the wind out of our sails for that market.” 

As a result of the trade war, the top growing markets for cherries have shifted to Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Growers are expecting to send 1 million boxes to Korea, about 700,000 boxes to Taiwan, 200,000 boxes to Vietnam, 200,000 boxes to Japan and around 500,000 boxes to Hong Kong and China. 

Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) and Portland (PDX) airports say they are expecting the usual increase in flight frequencies as carriers beef up their services for the seasonal product.  

“The season really started getting kind of crazy about the week of June 15, and we saw some carriers definitely double daily activity, which is picking up and now almost full bore,” said Ken Galka, SEA’s air cargo operations manager. At SEA, on some days the airport is scheduled to host up to six 777 and 747 freighter aircraft going to Asia with cherries during the season’s peak in August, he added. 

Be sure to check back later this summer, when Air Cargo World will provide an update on how the season ultimately played out for the year. 

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