2020: Good Year for Asparagus, Bad Year for Cherries in the PNW

Let’s start with the (sort of) good news. Asparagus farmers in the Pacific Northwest are getting a timely boost this year due to COVID-19 linked disruptions in the foreign asparagus supply.  

The price of a standard 28-pound crate of U.S. asparagus  which usually hovers around $50  has climbed to $62, according to a recent OPB report.  

This is largely because of a reduction in lower-cost imports from competing producers in Mexico and Peru. In addition, a cold winter has affected the crop’s yield in Michigan and eastern Canada. 

Quoted in the OPB article is Alan Schreiber, leader of the Washington Asparagus Commission. Schreiber of course welcomes this year’s boost, saying that, “For once, it looks like Washington asparagus growers are going to have a good season.” 

Regrettably, it appears that 2020 may not be as fortuitous for Pacific Northwest cherry growers.  

Regional cherry industry officials project that a tree infection has substantially depleted the size of this year’s harvest, according to a recent report from the Oregonian.  

The infection, referred to as “little cherry disease,” is believed to have made a 40-million-pound dent in this year’s profitable yield.  

Little cherry disease can spread quickly through an orchard, so growers have to cut down infected trees when they spot them.  

Tianna DuPoint is a member of the Washington State University Extension staff, which offers expert assistance to growers guarding against little cherry disease. Describing the affected cherries, she notes, “They’re small and pale, but they’re either bland or bitter. So they won’t hurt you if you eat them, but they’re not marketable.” 

 By JD Brookbank