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'Cherry Express' To Fly Northwest Cherries Direct To China

A brand new flight will send fresh cherries from Seattle to Shanghai, China, several times a week starting June 18.

The Northwest just started marketing cherries in China about a decade ago. Super-large fresh cherries are expensive in China, but it's now one of the very top export markets for the Northwest. They take about 10 percent of the overall Northwest crop each year.

When the fruit lands in China it’s delivered to customers’ doors—much like AmazonFresh.

“By the time the consumers receive those cherries—it will be faster than the U.S. consumers that live on the East Coast of the United States,” said Keith Hu from the Northwest Cherry Growers. “In 48 hours, two days, for those consumers in Shanghai, Beijing, in Shingin and Guangzhou to receive those cherries.”

The Cherry Express cargo plane is being painted outside of Paris this month. It will have cherries emblazoned upon its sides.

The Cherry Express is a unique partnership between online sales giant Alibaba, the China Eastern Air Group and the Northwest Cherry Growers. There will be a large media unveiling in Shanghai and the plane’s first run is scheduled to take off from SeaTac airport later this month.

The Northwest Cherry Growers announced a similar flight from Seattle to Seoul a few years ago. But now, the Northwest is able to export directly to China’s mainland. There are also several other cargo airlines getting in on the sweet Northwest cherry action. The Northwest is projected to pick 230,000 tons of fruit this summer.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.