Green Markets

EWN Publishing

Cherry Growers Production falls 40 per cent from the start of the decade; Lack of natural rainfall cripples industry

Posted by gmarkets on 8 October, 2007

According to John Stapleton and Asa Wahlquist, it’s cherry blossom time, and the stone fruit orchards of Australia are thick with the smell of flowers and the buzz of insects drifting in the warm spring air, reported The Australian (1/10/2007, p.6). Pretty picture belies a sorry story: The picture could hardly be prettier. But the picturesque scenes belie a sorry story. The good autumn rains fell just as the trees went into their dormant winter state. It helped de-stress the trees and set them up for spring time. As a result, branches are dripping with an abundance of flowers. But because the trees cannot bear a heavy fruit load during dry conditions, growers now have to decide whether to chemically strip most of the flowers off the trees, or leave them as they are and hope like hell it rains.

Stone fruit industry earnings will be down by 40 per cent: The stone fruit industry, normally worth more than $300 million at the farm gate, fears its earnings will be down by as much as 40 per cent. More than 80 per cent of the national production of apricots, cherries, peaches, plums and nectarines occurs in the Murray-Darling Basin, where irrigation allocations have been cut sharply.

Main issue is to keep plantings alive for future: Ian McAlister, chair of the peak body Summerfruit Australia, said the situation was the worst in his lifetime. “The main issue is to keep the permanent plantings alive, for the future,” he said. Ian Hay, national president of Cherry Growers of Australia, said the Young District of NSW, where he is based, had been eligible for “exceptional circumstances” drought funding for the past five years. Farmers, to obtain that classification, had to demonstrate that at least 25 per cent of their trees had died.

Remaining trees not enough for a successful crop: Hay said the remaining trees were being kept alive by ground water but it was not enough for a successful crop. Production had fallen 40 per cent from the start of the decade. “Without natural rainfall we find it very difficult to achieve a large size of fruit, which is what the market demands,” he said.

The Australian, 1/10/2007, p. 6

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