Growers' yields not right as rain

Kate MatthewsCountryman

WA cherry growers are experiencing one of the lightest crops on record after last year's bumper harvest.

A dry autumn followed by rain during flowering has resulted in a smaller fruit set this season.

And rain over the past few weeks has resulted in fruit splitting and cracking.

Mercer Moonie fruit merchant Justin Parsons said most of his growers, located in the Mt Barker region are down 40 to 50 per cent on yield compared to last season and down 30 per cent on average years.

"I've heard it's the same for the Manjimup growers and Adelaide Hills growers as well," he said.

"Some varieties just didn't set very well mainly due to weather conditions, others have set normally but in WA, everything is much lighter than usual."

Mr Parsons said demand, which peaks the week before Christmas has been slow this season but he is hopeful it will pick up.

Narrikup grower Bill Degens said peaches and nectarines were doing well but the cherries and plums were the lightest seen.

"We have 20 different varieties of cherries and usually pick from the first week in November through until January," Mr Degens said.

"This year, I think it will be all over by Christmas and will be surprised if there are many left after that."

At the Degens orchard, they have seen late blossoms, delayed foliage and poor fruit set after a warm winter and with last week's rain, fruit splitting.

In Mt Barker, grower Craig Lynch said they recorded 200mm of rain during the eight-week flowering window which didn't help.

"We probably have 30 per cent the yield picked last year," he said.

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