Fine weather brings top cherry crop
This will be a season to savour for Nelson growersPETER WATSON
It is shaping up to be a season to savour for Nelson cherry growers.
The long stretch of fine weather in the last two months has produced a crop of good quality and taste, which growers are in the middle of picking.
It's a far cry from last year, when heavy rain and cool temperatures ruined much of the crop.
Braden Field, who grows a hectare of cherries at Mahana, as a sideline to apples, said it was his best harvest in four years.
"It's a complete turnaround from last year, when we lost our total crop."
Although cherries were high risk and very weather dependent, they were worth growing in a season like this one, he said. The Moutere clay brought out the flavour.
He sold his cherries from the gate and at local markets, and expected to average about $14 a kilogram.
One of the region's largest growers, the Thomas brothers, expect to pick 30 per cent more fruit this season from their 2.5-hectare Riwaka orchard.
Bill Thomas said with next to no rain, there was little split fruit and size and taste were excellent.
"It's a good, average crop, unlike last year, when we were scratching to supply."
To better protect the fruit, they have covered some of their trees as a trial.
About three-quarters of their crop will be sent to retail outlets in Wellington, Masterton and Christchurch and the rest sold at their roadside stall. Some fruit had also gone to Dunedin, where there was a shortage after unseasonal frosts hit the Central Otago cherry crop, he said.
The price, which had not changed in the five years they had been growing, ranged from $17.50 a kg locally to $25 in Wellington for class-one fruit.
More Nelson growers appeared to be giving cherries a go, but the competition was good, he said.
Another Riwaka grower, Steve Fry, said cherries provided another income stream to pipfruit and paeonies.
"You have to be diverse these days."
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