IT'S that time of year to get interested in cherries in Tasmania, so I thought I'd better.
According to Cherry Growers Australia, our harvest window is the last three weeks of January and I'm writing this on January 14, so I've just made it.
New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are the top three growers, with about 50 per cent for export.
Promise not to get bored if I quote from Wikipedia :
"The English word 'cherry' derives from Old Northern French, or Norman 'cherise' from the Latin 'cerasum' referring to an ancient Greek region, Kerasous, near Giresun, Turkey, from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe."
The botanical name is Prunus and there are at least 24 species of so-called true cherries. Globally 2.25 million tonnes are produced annually.
Australia is a very small player, growing a mere 20,000 tonnes. Having said that, Australian cherries in general, and Tasmanian cherries in particular, have made a significant impression on the global market.
So significant that "Hong Kong Customs seizes cherries falsely marketed as Tasmanian brand 43 Degrees South" according to an ABC News report last February.
"Tasmanian cherries command a premium price in Hong Kong, with 2kg boxes selling for up to HK $600 (A$100)."
In an interview with the ABC, Tasmanian grower Howard Hansen said the boxes looked identical to his company's, but did not have the unique QR code.
"Counterfeiting of our brand is something that has been going on in advance of 15 years," he said.
Chinese counterfeiters buy Chilean cherries in the market for less than 10pc of Tasmanian cherries.
Thinking positive, it's a backhanded compliment to Tasmanian growers for their produce to be counterfeited in this way.
The challenge is to ensure truth-in-labelling.
So, what is so special about Tasmanian cherries? The most crucial aspect of this is that:
"Tasmania has national and international recognition for Area Freedom Status for Fruit Fly," according to Cherry Growers Australia Inc.
"This provides access to a number of international markets where stringent import regulations are in place, one being China... as an island, and with strict quarantine controls, Tasmania is also recognised as free from a number of important pests and diseases including fire blight.
"Reduced pest and disease pressure means low level use of chemicals."
There 70 growers, 560 hectares, producing 4000 tonnes/year.
And what is so special about the cherry, anyway?
You can Google dozens of answers, but one of the best is the one by Fresh Food Fast, entitled: "Seven impressive health benefits of cherries."
You can get all the details on www.healthline.com/nutrition/cherries-benefits.
I've just been to the local supermarket to price the cherries - today, they're $13.90/kg. That'll get you about 80 cherries so that you can check easily the above.
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