Season a real plum

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

While many WA farmers have finished harvest, South West fruit growers are in the middle of picking one of their biggest crops.

Manjimup grower Bevan Eatts grows 10 varieties of plums, and despite dams not being full, his crop is to the brim.

“The dry spring helped the bees get out to work and chilling hours were up, ” he said.

The weather gods also blessed growers in the Manjimup region last year.

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Unseasonal rain in December and January caused some minor losses, but were welcomed by the dry soils.

Mr Eatts has 13 acres and 14,800 plum trees of varieties including Black Amber, Purple Majesty, Fortune, Kelsey and Candy Roses.

He produces about 100 tonnes of plums a year.

Entering his 14th season, the plum grower also runs a herd of sheep and cattle.

“When we first planted plums it was for export, but we have since cut back plantings because we couldn’t compete with the Chilean market, ” he said.

“So we have stuck to domestic supply because we can’t compete on price and wages costs.”

While thinning the trees, Mr Eatts said they would drop 50–60 per cent of the crop onto the ground.

“Thinning creates space and gets the fruit to all come to size, ” he said.

“Crops are heavier than average in Manjimup and are bigger throughout other regions in WA.”

Manjimup growers began picking between Christmas and the New Year.

Fruit West chief executive Jonathon Cutting said all growers had good fruit set across all the major commodities, including citrus, stone fruit and pome fruit.

“Fruit harvesting will go until about May and we are expecting a warm dry summer so the amount of pesticides being used is very limited, ” he said.

“Pest and disease pressure is limited so there will be a very high quality result for consumers who will be eating some of the best stone fruit in years.”

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