Central-West cherry crop smashed by heavy rain and storms

Orange area declared ag natural disaster after storms, rain


Weather
Australia has only just opened up new markets for cherries in China and now the industry has been hit by freak storms and rain just when it didn't want it at picking time.

Australia has only just opened up new markets for cherries in China and now the industry has been hit by freak storms and rain just when it didn't want it at picking time.

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Family declares it waste of time to pick large cherry crop

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The Orange area has been declared an ag natural disaster area after storms hit the Central-West, ruining many cherry crops and hitting other orchards.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said the declaration means affected growers can access low interest loans of up to $130,000 to repair any damage to their orchards. The area includes Orange and parts of the Cabonne shire.

Meantime, one Mudgee cherry producer has made the call not to harvest their crop because it is so badly damaged by rain. Instead Mudgee locals have gathered around to try and salvage some of the crop for orchard sales to help the Roth family.

Mr Blair said: “We currently estimate the damage bill to be more than $4 million, however we expect this could rise as producers continue to assess just how widespread the impact of the storms has been.”

“We know our fruit producers are heading into one of the busiest times of year, so to take this hit now after months of drought as well, is extremely tough.

Ruined cherries near Orange.

Ruined cherries near Orange.

Related: Hit by ‘midnight special’: Storm causes widespread damage to cherries | Photos

“The damage has included pitting, bruising and skin punctures to both cherries, apples and wine grapes, as well as rips and collapses in structures like hail netting.”

The low interest loans will assist in replacing and repairing on-farm infrastructure, such as tree netting, fencing and equipment.

Mr Blair said while these loans will help with repairs to structures and equipment, it’s the public who ultimately can help growers the most.

“As we head into the Christmas and New Year period the best thing we can all do is check where our fruit is from and make sure we are buying from our Central West producers.

“Every punnet you buy goes a long way in helping our producers to recover quickly and continue to provide some of the country’s best fruit.”

Details on available assistance is available from the NSW Rural Assistance Authority website at www.raa.nsw.gov.au, or by calling 1800 678 593.

Cherry growers have been hit hard by recent rain and storms.

Cherry growers have been hit hard by recent rain and storms.

A member of the Roth family of Mudgee made this moving statement after heavy rain and storms ruined a large part of their crop.

“Yesterday I made the gut wrenching decision to quit the commercial picking of our 2018 cherry crop due to rain damage. 70% of the cherries are absolutely beautiful - in the last few days they’ve ripened and sweetened up beautifully. Our packouts (% of crop as first grade & by size) were still looking good after the rain but a further heavy fall Friday night tipped the balance. We need more than 70% of fruit to be first grade simply to cover the high costs of picking, packing & freight. With 60% of our crop still on the trees it’s a huge emotional and financial blow after all the hard work and investment in growing this crop. Yet I am proud that I stuck by my principals to wait until the fruit was ripe before picking - even though I lost the gamble with the rain this time. We’ve picked and are carefully, slowly sorting the good, beautiful cherries for our direct sales (delivery runs and at the farm).’’

Roth cherries at Eurunderee.

Roth cherries at Eurunderee.

“We’ve opened our whole orchard in Mudgee for pick your own now. We’d really appreciate your support - rally your friends and family for a cherry picking adventure or find our cherry express. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful, ripe cherries while supporting out this family farm.

“Orchard is open Sunday & Monday 7:30am-1pm. Aiming again for Thursday, Friday if the hot weather doesn’t finish the cherries earlier.”

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