Hit and miss year for cherry growing areas

Hit and miss year for cherry growing areas


Horticulture
Joanne Wells of Main Range Orchards, Young, and manager, Steve Lane, check the quality of early variety, Vista, which is just starting to be picked.

Joanne Wells of Main Range Orchards, Young, and manager, Steve Lane, check the quality of early variety, Vista, which is just starting to be picked.

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Cherry harvest is up to a month late in the Young district following wet early spring drenchings during pollination that have diminished crop prospects.

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CHERRY harvest is up to a month late in the Young district following wet early spring drenchings during pollination that have diminished crop prospects.

National president of Cherry Growers Australia, Tom Eastlake, Fairfields Orchard, between Young and Wombat, said the season was late.

“We are about three weeks to a month behind,” he said.

“It’s going to be a greatly reduced crop and national projections are probably around 40 to 50 per cent of normal, so there’s not going to be much fruit around.

Mr Eastlake predicted the Australian crop would be about 7000 tonnes this year as against 16,000t last year.

Rain at pollination almost certainly had impact, he said, and in places trees had been stressed because of too much moisture.

“We’ll never know exactly what happened this year, but rain at pollination didn’t help.”

Mr Eastlake said there had been a lot of shedding in the district, particularly on varieties that weren’t severely impacted by the rains.

With the Young Cherry Festival timed for this weekend, a severe hail storm hit the district a fortnight ago causing major damage in every car dealer’s yard along Young’s main street, but luckily took a wide berth of most orchards.

“The storm did hit a couple on the northern side of town unfortunately and leaving hail marks on some fruit in others,” Mr Eastlake said.

Mr Eastlake said there would be shortages and exports would be impacted.

“I do expect demand to remain strong over the next couple of months so that will impact export markets and will also move prices upwards.”

The Hillston and Griffith harvest should be just about finished, according to NSW Cherry Growers Australia president, Fiona Hall, Caernarvon Cherry Company, Towac, who said there was also less fruit in those areas.

“While there was hardly any fruit, what they did pick was really good quality and they received really good money for it,” Mrs Hall said.

“Harvest then normally roles into Young while Mudgee’s main varieties will start next week, and then it moves to Orange.”

Fruit sets in the Orange district are not as heavy this year, more medium to normal, according to Mrs Hall.

“Timing means we may miss the Christmas market, where Young may pick it up, however, that means we have opportunities for the Chinese New Year which is earlier next year in January.”

Mrs Hall said dollar return was guesswork at this stage of picking, however, mainland prices (excluding Tasmania) could possibly be from $7 a kilogram up to $13/kg, depending on quality, fruit damage and packer costs.

Cherries ripe for harvest at Young

David "Harry" Harris of Australian Blue Bird Brand orchard, Young.

David "Harry" Harris of Australian Blue Bird Brand orchard, Young.

YOUNG Cherry Festival will be in full swing this weekend with upwards of 16,000 visitors expected to attend and many of which look for the popular Ron variety, which, unfortunately will be scarce due to delay in the picking season this year.

Joanne Wells of Main Ridge Orchards, Young, said possibly half the amount of cherries have grown this year against normal years due to bad weather at pollination, and “Rons” were behind in maturity at present.

“However, we have several other varieties now being picked and these should suit most,” Mrs Wells said.

Fourth generation grower north of Young, Scott Coupland, said his family’s Australian Blue Bird Brand had just begun picking with between 60 to 70 per cent of staff being backpackers employed direct to make up the workforce on “Yarrawa”.

David “Harry”  Harris, a full-time employee pictured above and on our front cover, was out checking fruit suitable for picking when he was captured by The Land’s photographer, Rachael Webb.

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