Grow­ers pre­pare for stone­fruit har­vest

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - CAS­SAN­DRA GLOVER Cas­san­dra.glover@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

OC­TO­BER is the start of stone­fruit sea­son, and Traprock Orchard is about to start har­vest­ing de­li­cious nec­tarines, peaches and plums. Traprock Orchard is a fam­ily owned and run op­er­a­tion. John and Julie Pratt started the orchard in the early ’90s to di­ver­sify their sheep and wool op­er­a­tion. The cou­ple run the orchard with the help of their son Nigel and his part­ner Stacey Colthup.

The Pratt fam­ily’s prop­erty is at Traprock, west of Stan­thorpe, on 3642ha, with the orchard tak­ing up 30ha.

They also run 400 cows and 1600 sheep.

Traprock Orchard will start the har­vest of 25,000 trees at the end of Oc­to­ber.

“Ev­ery sin­gle piece is picked by hand. The ma­jor­ity of our work­force is back­pack­ers,” Nigel said.

“We’ll start in the third or fourth week of Oc­to­ber and con­tinue right through up un­til Christ­mas.

“A ma­ture tree will on aver­age pro­duce be­tween 12 and 15kg of fruit.”

Nigel said the orchard had felt the brunt of the dry con­di­tions.

“It’s been a tough sea­son; ob­vi­ously drought has been a ma­jor set­back for us this year,” he said.

“It’s brought its chal­lenges in a few forms, ob­vi­ously lack of wa­ter, but also due to the dry con­di­tions we were af­fected more than usual with frost events, which was detri­men­tal to a few of our ear­lier crops.

“Our yields will be a lot lower than a year with abun­dant wa­ter, and the frost has taken a fair per­cent­age. Our later sea­son crops won’t be so neg­a­tively af­fected.”

Traprock Orchard sup­plies fruit to lo­cal shops as well as su­per­mar­kets.

“We sup­ply to the Bris­bane Cen­tral Mar­kets,” Nigel said.

“Our high-end fruit will go to the fruit shops in Bris­bane and Toowoomba.

“Then our larger quan­ti­ties of fruit go to Coles and Wool­worths in Bris­bane, Mel­bourne, Syd­ney and up to Townsville.”

Mr Pratt said the stone­fruit sea­son on the Gran­ite Belt was ear­lier than south­ern

❝ The fruit ear­lier per­forms bet­ter than the later sea­son fruit be­cause of com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place. — Nigel Pratt

re­gions of Aus­tralia, which al­lowed bet­ter mar­ket ac­cess.

“The ear­lier fruit per­forms bet­ter than the later sea­son fruit be­cause of com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket­place,” he said.

“Later in the sea­son some of the larger grow­ers down south have be­gun full pro­duc­tion and they tend to flood the mar­ket.

“Up here the har­vest sea­son is ear­lier than down south. There are grow­ers that har­vest be­fore us at Kumbia (near Kin­garoy).

“We come in at the end of their sea­son. We’re all chas­ing each other’s tails.”

PHOTO: LIANA WALKER

PRE­PARED: Nigel Pratt from Traprock Orchard said har­vest­ing would start to­wards the end of this month.

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