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Life's a peach

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Despite WA dams at record low levels and the sun beating down, this season’s stone fruit crop is looking peachy.

Manjimup plum grower Bevan Eatts said his crops were the best he had seen.

“It wasn’t a wet spring, so the bees were out in force and the cold winter had chilling hours up,” he said.

“The fruit has sized up quickly and we haven’t had any damaging weather.

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The only negative is the lack of water, but luckily our dams have enough to get us through.”

Fruit West manager Jonathon Cutting said WA growers had a terrific fruit set.

“Last year, growers had a pretty good season, and this year has been the same,” he said.

“The Donnybrook/Manjimup region is in the middle of thinning and the Hills and North regions’ fruit are already in the market.”

Gingin stone fruit grower Lynda Harding said the season had started late and finished early due to the cold, dry winter.

Last year, the family’s first delivery was on the first day of December, but this year it was on November 21.

“The ground was so cold the trees came slowly out of dormancy,” she said.

“Then the lack of rain slowed leaf growth, but once they flowered, they quickly came to fruit.”

This year, the Hardings produced six tonnes of organic and 2.5 tonnes of conventional stone fruit.

Lynda said their crop was light this year and they lost two-thirds of their peaches to frost in August.

“We had minus 3C days and, with little rain, the ground gets very cold,” she said.

The family’s six hectares of organic and non-organic peaches, nectarines and apricots meant they had backup when conventional markets slumped.

“The commercial peach market has been a disaster this year, with prices fluctuating from $5/kg to $2/kg,” Lynda said.

“With managed investment schemes dumping tonnes of fruit on the market, it’s hard to compete.

“There is less competition in organics — the demand is strong and prices stay relatively consistent.”

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