By Hayley Boriss, Henrich Brunke and Marcia Kreith, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.
Revised June 2012 by Dr. Greg McKee, professor of business and applied economics, North Dakota State University, email@example.com
Two main types of cherries are produced in the United States: sweet cherries and tart or “sour” cherries. Washington, California, Oregon and Michigan are the primary sweet cherry producing states, accounting for more than 97 percent of the quantity produced nationwide. The primary tart cherry producing state is Michigan, which alone accounts for nearly 90 percent of tart cherry production.
Cherries are consumed in a variety of ways, including fresh, frozen and canned, or as juice, wine, brined or dried. In recent years, two-thirds of the sweet cherries produced have been destined for the fresh market, with the remaining one third used for processing. Of the sweet cherries that are processed, just over 50 percent are brined.
With regard to tart cherries, 83 percent of production is used for processing, with the majority processed as a frozen product (67 percent). A total of 16 percent of tart cherries are canned and the remainder (those neither frozen nor canned) are used for juice, wine, brined and dried products (NASS).
The marketing season for U.S. sweet cherries last from early May to mid August, while the marketing season for tart cherries lasts from mid June to mid August (NASS).
Cherries have been a popular fruit crop for consumption in the United States for many years, and more recent attention on the health benefits of cherries and other fruits and vegetables has helped boost consumption. Cherries in particular have been found to offer a good source of antioxidants and contain compounds believed to aid in pain relief of arthritis, gout and headaches (ERS 2002).
Over the last few decades, total cherry consumption in the United States has remained relatively stable until recently. Peak consumption of cherries occurred in 2009 at 2.4 pounds per person, and each year since 2003 has been greater than the historical average. The low of 1.3 pounds occurred in 1991 and again in 1996. In 2008, per person consumption of all cherries was 1.9 pounds.
In the last few years, consumption of fresh cherries has grown at a faster rate than that of frozen cherries and consumption of canned cherries has decreased. Since 1994, fresh consumption increased from 0.5 pounds per capita to 1.5 pounds in 2009. Frozen cherry consumption was 0.8 pound per capita.
The United States is the second-largest producer of cherries in the world, accounting for more than 10 percent of world production. Turkey is the leading cherry producer.
Total U.S. sweet cherry utilized production in 2010 was 343,000 tons valued at $891 million. Washington led the nation in sweet cherry production, followed by California and Oregon. Washington raised 200,000 tons of sweet cherries in 2011 valued at $528 million.
The tart cherry utilized production in the United States in 2011 was 230 million pounds valued at $69 million. Michigan accounted for 157 million pounds valued at $47.2 million in 2011. Other top tart cherry states are Utah and Wisconsin.
Sweet cherry prices were $1.31 per pound in 2011. That same year, tart cherries were valued at 29 cents per pound. Prices for tart cherries historically have been lower than those of sweet cherries.
Globally, the United States is the largest fresh cherry exporter, followed by Turkey, Austria and Chile. Total U.S. cherries exported, tart and sweet varieties combined, was 58,704 metric tons in 2010.
In 2010, Canada was the largest market for U.S. cherry exports overall, followed by Japan and Taiwan. Canada accounted for $114.7 million of the $326 million in total U.S. exports.
The United States imported nearly 20.3 metric tons of fresh cherries in 2011. Nearly all of the imports originated from Chile.
Cherries: Sweet and Tart, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA, 2002.
Cherry Production and Trade Summary, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA, 2012.
Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook and Yearbook, ERS, USDA.
Fruits, U.S. per capita food availability, ERS, USDA, 2012.
Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), FAS, USDA.
Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), USDA, 2012.
Statistical Database-Agriculture, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), United Nations.
Created March 2006 and revised June 2012.