Rain and floods destroy summer fruit crops
The Christmas lunch fruit bowl might be a little emptier this year as extreme weather conditions hamper summer production.
Widespread rains, storms and flooding in eastern Australia have affected stone fruit production, including peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots, Summerfruit Australia chief executive Trevor Ranford said. .
“We are seeing less fruit in early summer this year due to cooler weather and the effects of rains and flooding.”
Jason Size, a stone fruit grower from South Australia, has been in the business for over 28 years and has never seen so much rain on his crops.
‘Financially heartbreaking’, says farmer
Its apricot trees make it particularly hard with each variety that splits due to humidity.
“It’s harder to find the right fruit than the wrong fruit,” he said.
With around a quarter to a third of his crop already lost, Mr Size fears pests and soggy paddocks will make life even more difficult.
“Financially, it’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Orchards in Orange, NSW, the Victorian centers of Shepparton, Swan Hill, Cobram and Mildura, and Renmark, South Australia, have been hit by consistent extreme weather in recent months.
“When you think you’re starting to get hot weather, in a week you have another rainy event that’s wreaking havoc,” Mr Size said.
Widespread crop destruction
Victoria produces 70% of Australia’s stone fruit and has suffered widespread crop destruction.
Mr Ranford said farmers had to pump water from flooded orchards and were struggling with a shortage of sunshine and hot temperatures, which encourage fruit to produce sugars and grow.
“If the fruit does not meet grower and customer specifications, then that fruit is not harvested and disposed of by the grower,” he said.
Customers should expect to see higher prices, Ranford said.
After a difficult few years with COVID-19, labor shortages and rising costs, it was now extreme weather that was slowing production.
However, volumes will continue to increase until Christmas and into February.
“Australian horticulture growers are resilient people and they will overcome these situations,” Mr Ranford said.