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Warm Winter Blamed For California Cherry Crop Flop

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — California's billion-dollar cherry industry has been hit hard and will likely see its worst crop in more than 15 years.

"On a normal year we will pack about 50,000 boxes," said Ken Oneto with KLM Ranches. "This year we packed 19,000."

The warmer than normal winter is being blamed for the drastically small crop.

"You need to be cool enough during the winter that the trees really get full rest if you will," said San Joaquin County Farm Bureau Director Bruce Blodgett. "We didn't get that this year."

Oneto has other crops to fall back on, but he will still feel the cherry loss financially.

"We're going to be down just guesstimate by 50 percent off our budget," he said.

He knows a lot of California growers who didn't pick at all this year.

"There was nothing to pick," he said.

Just a few weeks ago, consumers opting for cherries for California cherries saw them going for a whopping $7 a pound compared to Northwest cherries now priced at $3 to $4 a pound.

San Joaquin County is california's leading cherry producer, but ag experts say the slim pickings will hit more than just farmers and consumers.

"In San Joaquin County, we're an almost $2.9 billion industry, and they're always in the top 10 commodity, real important," Blodgett said, "but they won't see any scenario where they'll be in the top 10 in 2014."

California won't know the entire financial loss to farmers from the cherry crop flop until the end of August.

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