‘Not a happy time’

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA MAD­DOCK CHE BAKER

and Three bouts of heavy rain in Cen­tral Otago since New Year have de­stroyed up to 50 per cent of some cherry va­ri­eties. Sarita Or­chard man­ager Dun­can Mathers, of Cromwell, said the rain had af­fected some va­ri­eties more than oth­ers, and its im­pact had also var­ied greatly through­out the district. His or­chard, at the en­trance to the Kawa­rau Gorge, lost 50 per cent of the ‘‘Lap­ins’’ va­ri­ety dur­ing the down­pour at New Year. The loss equated to about 10 tonnes of cher­ries, or 10 per cent of the or­chard’s to­tal crop. ‘‘It’s not a happy time.’’ Mr Mathers said the other va­ri­ety of cherry he grew that was af­fected by the rain was ‘‘Sweet­heart’’, but the storms dur­ing the past week had been too brief to cause much dam­age. Cen­tral Cher­ries owner and man­ager Jack Peszyn­ski said his or­chard on the Cromwell-Lug­gate road re­ceived 6.5cm of rain dur­ing the three storms. The rain at New Year was the most pro­longed and there­fore caused the great­est

amount of dam­age. Va­ri­eties of cher­ries re­acted dif­fer­ently to the down­pour. At his or­chard, the ‘‘Stella Com­pact’’ va­ri­ety was the worst af­fected, with 20 to 25 per cent of the crop wiped out. That equated to about three tonnes, or 3 per cent of the or­chard’s to­tal crop. The ‘‘Skeena’’ va­ri­ety was also af­fected, but to a lesser ex­tent. ‘‘Other va­ri­eties we haven’t picked yet. Some are show­ing con­sid­er­able dam­age. Oth­ers are show­ing no dam­age.’’ The to­tal cost of the dam­age would not be known un­til the end of the sea­son, be­cause some rain-dam­aged cher­ries may be down­graded to ‘‘sec­ond grade’’ mean­ing they could not be sold to lu­cra­tive ex­port mar­kets. ‘‘The lo­cal mar­ket pays very lit­tle com­pared to ex­port. We still get some­thing, but not what we would ex­pect.’’ He said cherry sea­son had been ‘‘av­er­age’’, but it was bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous two, when his or­chard lost 80 to 90 per cent of the en­tire crop. ‘‘It wasn’t pretty. Com­pared to that, this year has been bet­ter. ‘‘But, put it this way, at best I would char­ac­terise it as an av­er­age sea­son. I would not call it a good sea­son.’’ Jack­son and Free­way Or­chards owner Mark Jack­son said his busi­nesses, both near Cromwell, were also ‘‘ham­mered’’ by the rain at New Year but, for­tu­nately, 90 per cent of their cher­ries had al­ready been picked and he lost only 20 per cent of what was still on the trees. The loss equated to about 2 tonnes, or 4 per cent of the or­chards’ to­tal crop. Mr Jack­son was now fo­cus­ing on apri­cots, which ben­e­fited from the rain. Sum­mer­fruit New Zealand chair­man and Roxburgh fruit grower Gary Bennetts said the rain was a blow for cherry grow­ers, who were al­ready suf­fer­ing from a lighter crop this sea­son. He es­ti­mated that 20 to 40 per cent of this year’s har­vest would be rain-dam­aged.

Photo: CHE BAKER 626026210

Not a good sea­son: Cen­tral Otago cher­ries drip with rain.

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