Cherry Express makes a stop at Sea-Tac Airport to carry cherries
July 25, 2017: The Port of Seattle today welcomed a specially painted cherry-themed Boeing 777 freighter, nicknamed the “Cherry Express,” to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The plane is operated by China Cargo, a division of China Eastern Airlines. Cherry season is in full bloom in Washington and Sea-Tac is projected to export a record total of cherries.
Through July 20th, five Pacific Northwest states have shipped 18,492,620 twenty-pound equivalent boxes. In 2016, the total international cherry volume exported through Sea-Tac Airport was 40 million pounds (10 million more than 2015) with a declared value of more than $115 million.
“We’re proud to support Washington farmers by providing facilities for the international freighter airplanes to deliver our state’s world-class cherries to global markets,” said Port of Seattle commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “This is just one more way the Port of Seattle connects our region to world and provides economic benefits across the state of Washington.”
Exports to Asia in July, primarily cherries, can be five times the amount of tonnage shipped on the most active airline at Sea-Tac. Other Asia airlines usually have volume increases of two to three times their normal monthly tonnage. Approximately 220,000 pounds of cherries can be loaded into a 747-400 freighter, one of the most common cargo planes at Sea-Tac. For the Cherry Express, it can hold close to 200,000 pounds.
Employment created by the Northwest cherry harvest is estimated at 19,000 jobs and the estimated local economic impact from the Northwest cherry industry in 2016 was $540 million.
“Our growers and associated businesses depend on exports and Sea-Tac is a valued partner in our success,” said Northwest Cherry Growers internal operations director Keith Hu. “About 30 percent of the Northwest cherry crop was exported in 2016, the vast majority going to Asian countries. Consumers at home and abroad expect fresh and delicious Northwest cherries and we’re expecting 2017 is going to be another banner year.”
Northwest cherry export sales averaged $267 million for the past five years. In the past five seasons, the Northwest Cherry industry packed and sold an average of 196,000 tons of fresh sweet cherries, reaching an all-time high of 232,000 tons in 2014.