Cherry sales are on their way back up

The domestic cherry market that plummeted earlier this year has shown signs of rebounding, with prices and product quality becoming more favorable to end users and wholesalers, according to lumber dealers interviewed by Woodshop News.

“For us, cherry did hit a bottom, but sales have been quite strong and we’ve been selling a lot,” said Lou Irion of Irion Lumber Co., a sawmill and retailer in Wellsboro, Pa. “We’ve had a couple of big orders — one was for $75,000 out West. For a while it was just dead as a doornail, but everything was. Walnut is our biggest seller right now because it’s hot, but cherry is in second place. Across the board, there’s definitely a greater interest in cherry.

“What happens is wood gets more expensive as the quality drops. That’s a really bad combination that kills the market. That’s what happened to the cherry market. Basically because all of the good logs were being exported, what was left in the domestic market was really poor quality.”

Jeff Shucker of Bailey Wood Products in Kempton, Pa., says the wholesale price of cherry has declined slightly, primarily on the FAS grade.

“There’s some volume out there and, in order to keep things moving, we’re seeing prices slide back a little bit. Demand isn’t all that strong and that’s part of it as well. A good bit of cherry goes for cabinets and furniture, but pretty much everything is just slow right now. I think the cherry market is tied to consumer confidence and disposable income. It’s a prestigious wood.”

“Cherry seems to be up and down,” said Jerry Anton of O’Shea Lumber Co., a wholesaler in Glen Rock, Pa. “Certainly for us, most of it goes into the cabinet industry and cabinetmakers are not real busy these days. I’ll notice that one month sales will be up, so maybe there’s business there to be had or maybe inventory’s getting low and the next month there might not be much activity. But it really seems cherry and maple is moving pretty well for the cabinet industry.”

Cherry (Prunus seritina), also known as black cherry, grows in North America from the Canadian border south to the Carolinas and west to the Dakotas. It grows particularly well in western Pennsylvania, according to Irion. “The cherry tree is an opportunistic species that is shade-intolerant and doesn’t grow well in the understory of a forest. The strength of western Pennsylvania cherry is that where a large portion of the forests in the Appalachians were clear-cut and burned in the last quarter of the 19th century, cherry had a perfect opportunity to grow.”

Retail prices for 4/4 FAS cherry were quoted at $5 to $5.25/bf.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.