Rain fails to sour cherry harvesting

The Marlborough cherry harvest is "on track" despite rain on Thursday night that prompted one cherry orchard to call in a helicopter to prevent fruit damage.

Cherryland packhouse manager Nicola Whyte said it was the third time this season helicopters had been used to dry fruit to prevent splitting or rotting.

"It is expensive to use but it's just something you have to do."

Helicopters had been used a lot last year, but the weather this year had been better.

The season was on-track and on-target, although there was still three-quarters of it to go, Mrs Whyte said.

She would not predict the yield of the crop this season, but said fruit flavour would be better than last year because of higher sunshine hours.

Kiwi Cherries owner Terry Sowman said cherries were particularly vulnerable to rain as they ripened because they were prone to split.

"Split fruit can only be sold as seconds. People want perfect cherries on their Christmas table."

He has permanent plastic coverings over much of his orchard, and had wheeled out an orchard fan to blow the trees and fruit dry after the rain last week.

There was some damage to his crop but that came with the territory, he said.

This was an average year, although better than last year, with prices firm and likely to rise as Christmas approached.

Stoneyfield Cherries co-owner David McGill said he had not used helicopters this year.

"But it is supposed to rain on Wednesday and [helicopters] cost a lot of money so you need to make the right call."

If the weather was kind and did not rain, there would be a good harvest, he said.

The Marlborough Express