There’s some good news for cherry lovers this Christmas with the prices set to be lower than last year’s highs.
Orange orchardist and president of the NSW Cherry Growers Association, Fiona Hall, said the crop was looking good this year.
Mrs Hall said the best fruit would probably cost $20 a kilogram at the shops – down from the $30 a kilogram prices of last Christmas after an incredibly wet winter in Orange led to a limited supply.
She said growers received $20 a kilogram last year but this was expected to drop to $10-15 a kilogram this year.
“The crop locally is a good medium size,” she said.
“Harvest should start about the first week of December.”
However, she said there would be stronger competition for the best quality fruit from an increased export market.
Vietnam and possibly China are set to receive Australian cherries this year on top of the existing export markets of Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and some European countries.
“Demand for the fruit will be a lot higher this year,” she said.
Mrs Hall said that fruit from Orange was now competing with produce from Young – long seen as the state’s main cherry area.
“Young is known as the cherry capital but Orange is getting more recognised for its good quality cherries.
“We don’t get that extreme heat.”
She said fruit was being picked now in Young but in the cooler climate Orange region the fruit on the trees was still green.
NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmanian each contribute about 4500 tonnes of cherries every year.
About 2500 of the 4500 tonnes picked in NSW are grown around Orange.
Mrs Hall said about 1100 tonnes comes to the packing shed on her property, Caernarvon.
Once the harvest begins it becomes a 24 hour-operation.
About 300-400 people would be employed to work at Caernarvon next month.
“Cherries don’t ripen like other produce,” she said.
“You have to pick them at peak sweetness.
“The pickers will start as soon as they can see.
“You have to be getting the pickers out very early in the morning.”
Picking will continue in the shade until about 2pm when it becomes too hot for the cherries to be taken from the trees.
As the fruit is picked it is taken into the packing shed where the fruit is washed, cleaned and packed for shipping to Sydney.
Up to three truckloads a day will be brought to the markets and straight to the airport for transfer overseas.
“We can have the fruit overseas within 48 hours of it being picked.”