Cruel blow for bumper fruit crop

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

More than twice the amount of fruit and half the time to harvest it was Wanerie mango growers John and Eve Morrissey’s reality this season.

John said due to the heat of the past two months, they had the biggest mango crop in their whole 12 years of producing the fruit west of Gingin.

“We thought we would get about 20 tonnes of mangoes from the four hectares and we got nearly 50 tonnes,” he said.

“We had a magnificent crop because it was a warm spring, which mangoes need for a good fruit set.

“We had about 1500 trays last year and we more than doubled that this year.”

But sadly a lot of the golden fruit went on the ground, because the Morrissey’s and their workers could not keep up with the ripening fruit.

“It was so hot the fruit was ripening while you looked at it,” John said.

“Instead of having the normal four or five week harvesting period, it was two and a half weeks.

“Not only did we have twice as much fruit, we had half the time to harvest it.”

Even with five backpackers, at least five tonnes of mangoes went on the ground and they had to get help packing the ones they did pick.

Then after a hectic two weeks, they got them to the market, but couldn’t sell them.

“Everyone else had a big crop, so there was a lot of ripe fruit that had to be sold,” John said.

“The average price was about $2.30/kg for the ones we sold.

“But there are about 800 trays still sitting in the market that haven’t sold, which will go to waste.”

The next step in the Morrissey’s mango plan was to investigate options for getting their fruit into Eastern States markets.

John said there were no Kensington Pride mangoes on any other market in Australia when he harvested them, so he needed to develop a way to sell interstate.

“We have never done it, but it seems extremely logical when we get gluts like this,” he said.

“They’re not easy to grow in this environment, because it is a marginal area, so when you do get a crop you need to capitalise on it.”

After spending 40 years as a rangeland management officer for the Department of Agriculture in Carnarvon and Kununurra, John decided to retire.

However retirement to him didn’t mean moving to the city suburbs and not working.

“Before you retire, you should plan your next career,” he said.

The 72-year-old knew mangoes were a possibility for the environment in Gingin and he also planted mandarins and peaches to spread the load through the year.

John said the peaches had proven problematic and uneconomic and he planned to pull them out and replace them with another crop in future.

“Christmas fruit used to attract a premium, but now there is so much around that we get as little as $5 per tray for our peaches,” he said.

John expects to get a good 40-50t/ha Hickson mandarin crop and 20-25t/ha off the imperials.

“The size looks good and we will hit the start of the market in May, before the huge volumes of fruit come in from Harvey.”

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