Citing a “significant problem” with the discovery of cherry fruit flies in an unnamed Washington fruit company’s shipments, the Washington Department of Agriculture has banned the company from shipping cherries to California.
The ban involves cherries from Chelan, Douglas, and Grant counties. Discoveries of cherry fruit flies have been higher than average at commercial packing facilities in Washington this season, with State Department of Agriculture inspectors having had eight or nine findings versus zero to three findings. The increase in findings may be due to the cool, rainy spring; these weather conditions can hamper pesticide spraying.
Cherry fruit fly overwinters and is the primary pest of sweet cherries in the Pacific Northwest. Washington state inspectors sample every delivery from growers, with especially careful inspections performed on every 20-pound box of cherries sold to California because the pest has not yet become a presence in that state.
In addition to the cherry fruit fly findings, Northwest cherry growers are dealing with a crop that has ended up being 50% less than the 16 million to 17 million box crop originally anticipated. The crop is also about 44% less than the 14.7 million box crops of the past two years. Chelan and Bing cherries both peaked short of the final forecast. Now growers are waiting to see if a greater volume of later, higher elevation varieties will compensate for the shortfall of the early varieties.