Fruit grow­ers bloom­ing busy

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

You know Christ­mas is nearly upon us when or­chardists start ramp­ing up op­er­a­tions and the fruit dan­gling from thou­sands of trees starts get­ting some colour.

Fruit grow­ers are con­fi­dent of a bumper har­vest this year, with the first crop of cher­ries due this week.

Webb’s Fruit owner Si­mon Webb, who grows apri­cots, peaches, nec­tarines and ap­ples near Cromwell, said it was ‘‘prob­a­bly one of the nicer look­ing crops’’ in a long time.

‘‘There’s a con­sis­tent crop right over the whole orchard,’’ he said. ’’Fruit size is just magic. The trees are just in re­ally good health.’’

Webb put the good start to the har­vest sea­son down to warm weather through Septem­ber and not hav­ing to frost-fight as of­ten dur­ing that month.

The first har­vest for Webb’s will be apri­cots and they are ex­pected ‘‘just af­ter Christ­mas’’.

There was no lack of sea­sonal work­ers around this year so far and with the fruit look­ing good, it made for a rel­a­tively stress free start, Webb said.

All he dreamed of now was a con­sis­tent pe­riod of hot weather. ‘‘The hot­ter it is ... the bet­ter it tastes.’’

Fairview Orchard owner Stephen Jef­fery’s first crop of cher­ries were due this week at his Te­viot Val­ley orchard.

‘‘We’ve had a cou­ple of pretty good sea­sons so if we can get through Jan­uary with­out any rain, then that will make for a good sea­son.’’

There wasn’t a ‘‘huge crop’’ of fruit in the val­ley this year but it was on a par with pre­vi­ous sea­sons at this stage.

At Earn­scle­ugh, McIn­tosh Orchard owner Wayne McIn­tosh said there was op­ti­mism in the in­dus­try at the mo­ment.

‘‘At this time of the year ev­ery­thing looks great. It’s re­ally the weather that hap­pens over the next few weeks that de­ter­mines it,’’ he said.

The big­gest is­sue could be ex­port­ing, with reg­u­lar freight­ing dis­rupted in Christchurch due to freighter plane ser­vic­ing, McIn­tosh said. It meant pos­si­bly hav­ing to ex­port out of Auck­land and that made it tougher lo­gis­ti­cally.

But there was a ‘‘good fruit set’’, they were of good size and there were work­ers around to har­vest it.

Sea­sonal worker num­bers would in­crease by 1000 to 10,500 this year through the Recog­nised Sea­sonal Em­ployer scheme.

RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

Webb’s Fruit owner Si­mon Webb, of Cromwell, in­spects the state of his apri­cots last week.

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