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