Tangy limes sweet earner

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Wanerie fruit growers Colin and Helen Humphry are making a mint from their limes.

The couple say the popularity of the green tangy fruit has soared over the past 5–10 years, thanks to the increasing use of lime in alcoholic drinks and TV show recipes.

Colin said if he could go back in time he would plant more limes.

Their 10 hectares in West Gingin boasts 1200 citrus and 1000 mango trees.

“We have more mandarins and mangoes but limes are our bread and butter,” Colin said.

“Thank goodness for limes in alcohol.

“When we first started growing limes, there was concern we might have more than the market could bear.

“Now we could be growing many more.”

During March, April and May, the limes are in season, but Colin said they produced a small amount of fruit during the rest of the year.

“The lime trees are booming right now, but they spot flower all year so we are constantly getting fruit from them,” he said.

Helen said the season had started early due to the hot weather and could be finished by April.

“Like everything, the picking seasons are a bit early this year,” she said.

Over the year Helen said they could get as much as eight tonnes of limes to market.

“We actually get a lot of limes, for the whole year we have had as much as 400kg per tree,” she said. “But we are expecting 200–300kg per tree this year.”

The Humphrys send all their fruit to the Perth Markets.

They said citrus prices had not moved much over the past five years despite costs of production rising significantly.

“Prices have been fairly stagnant but costs are going up fast,” Helen said.

“There are gluts and shortages throughout the year and prices vary, but they don’t reflect how much it costs to grow them.

“We are getting about $6/kg for limes at the moment.”

Their mandarin harvest will start in May and Helen said the crop was looking good.

“The crop is looking to be a reasonable size — not too heavy and not too light,” she said.

“And the size of the fruit is also good for the time of year.”

Their mandarins usually yield around 20–30 tonnes per hectare.

“We are expecting this year to have about 25 tonnes per hectare,” Helen said.

Their mandarin varieties include Clementine, Imperial and Hickson and the lime variety is Tahitian.

“Imperial is still king of the mandarin market,” Colin said. “We get almost half the price for Hicksons, even though we think they are nicer.”

The couple said Wanerie was a great place to grow fruit.

“We don’t have any pest or disease pressures here,” Helen said.

“We bait for fruit fly, but other than that we are fairly pest free.

“There is no shortage of water which is a blessing compared to much of the rest of the State and we have been able to water right through the summer. We feel lucky.”

Colin said being close to market was an advantage.

“With limes we pick them and send them straight to market that day,” he said.

“In less than 24 hours they will go from being on the tree to being on shop shelves.”

Over the 13 years of growing in Wanerie, the Humphrys said the biggest change had been the drying of the land.

“We planted gum trees when we first got here and they are starting to die,” Helen said.

“We have lost about 40 trees this year because of the dry, hot weather.

“The biggest asset is still having water.

“Unlike most places in WA, our bore levels haven’t changed in 10 years.”

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