Slow go for cherries

WET weather in spring and continued rains in early summer have seen a delayed start to the cherry season in Tasmania, delaying domestic Christmas sales and shrinking the export window before the lucrative Chinese New Year market.

The upcoming Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 22, 2023.

In 2022 it was celebrated on February 1 and in 2021 on February 12.

This represents a far smaller window for cherries to ripen, be picked, sorted, packed and exported, something that would represent a high-pressure situation on a regular year, let alone a year with so much rain and cool weather.

Andrew Griggs, of Lucaston Park Orchards in the Huon, said rains over the past week had come at inopportune time for a lot of export growers.

“A number of growers have used products to ‘wake up’ the cherries earlier this year to get them ready for the earlier Chinese New Year, but unfortunately what’s happened is those fruit are more vulnerable to rains like we’ve been seeing,” Mr Griggs said.

“We’ve had a bit of a horror week, and those growers have suffered a bit lately.

“The cold and wet conditions have made the season later this year and those crops that were ready to be picked and sold have been hurt by the recent rains.

“There are a lot of cherries around that are still green due to the weather, but because of that they’ve been pretty unaffected by the rains.”

“For us, the biggest troubles have been getting tractors in and out of the orchard, we’ve made a real mess and spent an endless amount of time pulling bogged tractors out.

“But if the weather clears up now there will still be a lot of good cherries around, we’re hoping to pick our early varieties this week ready for retail, but at this stage, we’ll be picking in the Huon well into February,” Mr Griggs said.

In the state’s North, Michelle Distill of Spreyton Fresh Cherries said the weather had been kinder than in the South, but the season would still be seeing some of the same delays.

“We’ve not been too badly affected, we’ve got our covers up over the export block and hopefully they’ll have that security going forward,” Mrs Distill said.

“We haven’t had as much rain or as much cold weather as other parts of the state so for now, our cherries are looking good.”

She said the season ahead remained somewhat of an unknown, with late starts potentially disrupting proceedings.

“It’s too early to tell whether it’ll be a good season or not at this stage but once we’re back after Christmas, everything ramps up.

“It seems to be a later start than usual up here as we didn’t get the warmth in spring, usually we’d be start by the end of the first week of December, this year we were almost a week behind.

“It’s not long, but it does push business back a week which isn’t ideal, but so far, it’s been fine.”