Sweet cherries should be cooled to below 5oC by 4 hours after harvest and low temperatures maintained throughout packing, storage, and transport. Room cooling, forced-air cooling, and hydro-cooling are all used to cool sweet cherry fruit. Of these, hydro-cooling is the most rapid, and chlorine compounds can be added to the hydro-cooler water to reduce decay potential. Low temperatures minimize quality loss as well as physiological and pathological disorders. Cherries continue to respire after packing which in turn, generates heat. For this reason, cherries have a relatively short storage life even with maintaining low temperatures. Shipments that must travel great distances via a container truck or by sea are at special risk for quality loss. A recent study conducted by researchers for the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, B.C., Canada looked at the importance of maintaining the integrity of the cold treatment from harvest to market. (HortTechnology article link)
2017 was a record-breaking year for Washington cherry growers who produced over 27 Million 20-pound boxes of sweet cherries, or 270,000 tons (NASS 2018) for an estimated value of $474,579,000. Around 30% of the crop is exported outside the US, with Asia being the biggest importer (generally lead by China and South Korea), Europe is a distant second. An estimated 98% of the overseas shipping is via air freight.