- Blaming his inability to sell his crop on a processing quota imposed by an industry marketing order and imports, a tart cherry grower in Michigan dumped 14% of it on the ground after the harvest, leaving it to rot, and posting his views on Facebook.
- Tart cherry crops have demonstrated high volatility in recent years, with this year’s harvest yielding a surplus of approximately 100 million pounds.
- Domestic tart cherry production jumped nearly 40% this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and processors are able to accept just 29% of what they're getting from growers.
The Cherry Industry Administrative Board establishes quotas to try to safeguard tart cherry prices and equate supply with demand. Growers vote on retaining the marketing order every six years. Processors can choose to maintain inventory reserves, sell excess into the export market, use some for product development or donate processed surplus cherries to charity.
This year's surplus of tart cherries mirrors other that of farming commodities where supply outpaces demand. Farmers are also dealing with record yields of corn and soy, and dairy surpluses led the USDA to provide $11.2 million in aid to producers and purchase 11 million pounds of cheese.
While sweet cherries appear in the produce section of the grocery store for fresh consumption, industry experts say 99% of tart cherries are processed into frozen, dried or canned forms. The U.S. is the second-largest producer of cherries in the world. In 2014, U.S. cherry exports were valued at $536.84 million for sweet and tart combined. Cherry imports in 2015, for both sweet and tart combined were valued at $151.5 million, with fresh accounting for $64.7 million and processed at $86.8 million.
Tart cherries exhibit anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The marketing order’s efforts to stabilize supply and an overall desire to minimize waste could persuade formulators to include tart cherries as a clean and simple ingredient with health and wellness benefits.