Late apricot harvest under way

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 07:21 20/12/2011

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Marlborough apricot growers have started the golden harvest a little later than usual.

Primac Horticulture owner Murray Neal began picking his first variety, wairau, yesterday, two weeks later than normal.

Wairau, a large, early variety developed by the Marlborough Research Centre, fetched premium prices because it entered the market before apricots from many other New Zealand regions, Mr Neal said.

A cool spring had caused the apricots to ripen more slowly than normal, he said.

"It's been cool but it's been really overcast, and that's had a really big impact," he said.

Mr Neal expected to start picking later varieties – sundrop, clutha fire and vulcan – at the end of the month or next month.

By picking later, it would put several growers in direct competition with their Central Otago counterparts, he said.

Each variety would be picked about three to four times, with most of his fruit being distributed to supermarkets through Market Gardeners.

Primac Horticulture expected to harvest at least 50 tonnes of fruit from 3000 trees.

About 10 per cent of the crop had been damaged in a spring hailstorm and because of rain during the past week, Mr Neal said.

He said a good quality apricot was bright, with clean skin.

It was easier to pick apricots of the same quality when the sun was shining brightly on the trees, he said.

Birch Grove co-owner Sandra Dowling said the early pollinating variety, royal rosa, was almost harvested.

However, she said sundrop, which made up most of her crop, would be picked near the end of the year, which was much later than usual.

Along with her husband, Richard, the couple sold their royal rosa apricots at the Farmer's Market last weekend.

Last week's rain had not affected their crops, she said.

However, both growers were hoping for some sunshine to speed up the ripening process in order to get their fruit into the markets.

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- The Marlborough Express

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