Delight cherries 'back to normal'

Czech seasonal worker Adela Novotna and Jackson Orchard managing owner Mark Jackson taste some of the first Earlise cherries of the 2012 season. Photo by Sarah Marquet.
Czech seasonal worker Adela Novotna and Jackson Orchard managing owner Mark Jackson taste some of the first Earlise cherries of the 2012 season. Photo by Sarah Marquet.
The first new-season Central Otago cherries are already on the shelves, although growers have mixed opinions of how the season is shaping up.

Jackson Orchard managing owner Mark Jackson said the first cherries from his Cromwell orchard were picked last Friday and sold throughout the country this week between $12 and $15 a kilogram. Though that price was about the same as in other years, he had a bigger crop this year compared to 2011.

"But last year it was lighter than normal, so we are back to normal."

However, Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Gary Bennetts and Summerfruit Orchards general manager Ian Nicholls said crops in their respective Roxburgh and Earnscleugh orchards were light or about the same as last year.

Severe frosts early in the season and recently, as well as a generally cool spring, had affected fruit-set and delayed ripening, meaning there was less fruit and the season was running up to a week late.

Mr Bennetts said although he did not know how light the crops were, there was enough to keep business ticking over.

"We have got enough fruit to run the business, but would like more."

"Apricot crops were also "patchy", he said.

However, that was "just the same old, same old" and growers would not really know until the end of the season.

Mr Nicholls said at this stage, Summerfruit apricots would be ready at the beginning of January, slightly later than last year, though some warm nights could speed up the ripening process.

Mr Jackson said he had a good crop of apricots and expected to start picking them a couple of days before Christmas.

All three growers agreed on one thing: they did not want any rain for the rest of the season.

sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz