Cliff Richards, of Vanuatu, picks Sundrop apricots at Clyde
yesterday. The fruit is destined for the domestic market.
Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Central Otago orchardists say the weather has made it a
''frustrating '' season so far, but they are hopeful the latest
soaking of rain has caused little damage to ripening cherry and
apricot crops. Helicopters were out in force in the
fruit-growing areas at dawn yesterday morning.
Growers called them in to hover over export cherry crops and
dry the fruit after heavy rain overnight. Most of the
district was bathed in sun during the day and warm winds
hastened the drying process, hopefully preventing the
cherries from splitting, Summerfruit New Zealand chairman and
Roxburgh fruit grower Gary Bennetts said.
''From what I've heard, the growers tell me that this latest
lot of rain hasn't caused too much damage to cherries,
compared with the January 2 rain,'' he said. There was
''quite a bit'' of damage to the cherry crop from the earlier
prolonged downpour but it was difficult to assess the toll
until the harvest was completed.
The cherry and apricot harvest in Central Otago was starting
''full steam'' and he believed the export volume of cherries
would remain on par with the amount exported last season.
Apricots had been relatively unscathed by the recent rain and
although the crop was lighter than in other years - ''it's
not what I'd call a vintage crop'' - returns were good for
growers. Kevin Paulin, of Clyde Orchards, said apricot
returns from the domestic market were on par with export
returns for the fruit this year.
''We're about a third of the way through the harvest and
we're concentrating on the local market this year. There's
quite a gap in the domestic market as the Hawkes Bay apricot
crop was early and was all gone by Christmas, so that's
helped boost the demand for Central Otago apricots.'' he
The rain last week affected some of the cherry blocks in the
20ha grown by Clyde Orchards and Mr Paulin said the damage
was patchy, depending on the variety. He estimated it ranged
from 10% damage through to 40% in some blocks.
He agreed with Mr Bennetts that the weather this season had
been frustrating for orchardists.
''Some more sunshine would be good, with nice calm warm days
Mr Bennetts said more heat was needed, as the nights had been
''The weather pattern has been frustrating, with the long
series of frosts early in the season, then the snow, the rain
and cold nights.''
Hugh Dendy, of Cromwell, said exports from his 35ha of
cherries began this week and the 25mm of rain did not appear
to have caused any damage. He was exporting Sylvia cherries
to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. Although new
markets were always being explored, Mr Bennetts said most of
Central Otago's export cherries went to Asian customers.
Returns looked like being similar to last year's ''profitable
returns'', he said. The peach and nectarine harvest is also
under way. Many Central Otago orchardists grew late variety
nectarines, so the harvest would continue into late February.