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Record rain smashes cherries forcing up prices for Christmas

By Hugh Hogan, Wednesday December 1, 2021 - 01:08 AEDT
ABC image
The constant rain impacting New South Wales has devastated the cherry crop in Young. - ABC

Cherry growers warn consumers may have to pay more for the fruit this Christmas, as unseasonally heavy and widespread rain wreaks havoc in several growing regions.


The cherry capital of Young has recorded 216mm of rain during November, more than three times the long-term average.


Too much rain while cherries are ripening can cause the fruit to split and crack making the crop not worth picking.


Scott Coupland runs a cherry and stone fruit orchard in Young and he is yet to pick any fruit this season because of the rain damage.


"I suppose I've never seen a start like this before," Mr Coupland said.


"Unfortunately, the first six varieties were a complete write-off for me," he said.


Mr Coupland was remaining optimistic that the rain would set up the later varieties for a strong finish to the cherry season.


Local grower and president of Cherry Growers Australia Tom Eastlake said estimates were that more than 50 per cent of the Young crop had been lost.


"But we've had another rain event over the weekend which may see that ratchet higher," Mr Eastlake said.


Widespread rain damage


The wet weather has impacted growing regions across the country. 


 


Mr Eastlake said the Adelaide Hills, Northern Victoria, Central Victoria and the Yarra Valley had all experienced some damage, but not to the same extent of Young.


"There's no growing region that's been exempt at this point ?They've all been affected in some way," he said.


Mild spring saves cherries at Orange 


Fiona Hall from BiteRiot said cooler spring temperatures in Orange had been the "saving grace" for her cherries, delaying the harvest and avoiding rain damage.


Orange recorded more 317mm of rain last month, making it the wettest November in 152 years of records according to Weatherzone.


"Anything that's turned colour has got damage but that's a hat full of fruit," Ms Hall said.


Ms Hall said the rain should improve the later varieties if it does dry out.


"We just don't want that rain that we've just had in another two weeks," she said.


Expensive Christmas cherries


Cherry Growers president Tom Eastlake said there would still be plenty of good quality cherries at Christmas time but the fruit would be more expensive than last year.


"The cherries will be fine ? people won't miss out on them," he said.


"[The cost] will be higher than last year, that's for sure, there's just too much demand and too little fruit."


Fiona Hall at Orange said the rain should make for great quality cherries later in the season, if it stopped raining.


"They might be few and far between but they should be good and they should be a good size and if we get dry weather from here in there should be some cherries."


Tom Eastlake said this season would be remembered for a long time among cherry growers.


"2021 is going to be a year that people look back on and say 'at least it wasn't as bad as that', I suspect," he said.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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