Wet weather results in fewer festive cherries

Fourth-generation Spreyton orchardist Simon Langworthy says this year’s cherry crop is the smallest he has seen harvested.

The Spreyton Fresh director said cherries should be available over the the festive season but get in early.

Festive fruit: Spreyton orchardist Simon Langworthy says the cherry crop is not as good because of the consistent wet weather affecting pollination. The good news is the cherries are sweeter tasting. Picture: Cordell Richardson.

Festive fruit: Spreyton orchardist Simon Langworthy says the cherry crop is not as good because of the consistent wet weather affecting pollination. The good news is the cherries are sweeter tasting. Picture: Cordell Richardson.

“There’s not very many - we’ve seen about a 20 per cent drop in cherries,” Mr Langworthy said.

A wet winter and wet spring meant the early season cherries were in shorter supply.

However, local growers hoped Tasmania’s later ripening cherries should produce a better yield in a few weeks.

“I think we’ll have cherries up until Christmas but there won’t be an abundance; and we’re not the only ones looking for more fruit,” Mr Langworthy said.

“We seem to be worst affected earlier in the season and there should be more fruit but we won’t really know until we pick the later crop.” 

Mr Langworthy said the lower yield meant he had enough pickers to harvest the fruit. However, due to the impact of the backpacker tax issue the orchard would have been looking for a lot more pickers if this year’s crop was as big as last year’s.

“We’re only alright because we did not have the same volume of fruit we had last year,” Mr Langworthy said.

“Usually we’re run off our feet with backpackers but did not have all those inquiries this year.”

Unseasonably cold weather had resulted in a shortage of cherries right across Australia, which meant prices were at a premium.

Mainland growers hit by continuous rain saw some areas reporting the annual harvest was down by up to 60 per cent on last year.

“The average per kilo (retail) is $17,” Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Phil Pyke said.

He said the wet conditions impacted on the pollination process and ruined the crop by causing fruit to split.

The good news is cherries are sweeter due to the longer chill hours that assist in setting the sugar levels.

In Tasmania the cherry harvest begins three to four weeks after the rest of Australia which would help the local cherry crop perform better, Mr Pyke said.

“At this stage it has been an unusual year and cherries are down about 15 per cent across the state but Tasmania is doing far better than the mainland where cherries have been wiped out in some places, which is a sad situation to see. 

“Because we are picking later hopefully it’s a better outcome for Tasmania.”

Mr Pyke said as mainland cherry growers had such a bad year seasonal workers came to Tasmania a bit earlier for work. He said more local people were filling picking jobs as well.

This story Festive cherry crop down first appeared on The Advocate.