Get in quick to put cherry on top of Christmas festivities

By Lynda van Kempen

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Cherries from Central Otago could be in short supply for Christmas unless the weather warms up.

Cold temperatures and rain showers yesterday and Thursday combined with a chillier than usual spring have slowed the estimated main harvest of the summerfruit delicacy by up to a week.

'We're looking at the main harvest starting five to seven days later than usual and unless we get a run of hot days, there will still be cherries for Christmas, and nice fruit, but not a huge volume of them," said 45 South general manager Tim Jones.

He estimated the main harvest of 45 South's Cromwell cherries would begin between December 15 and 20.

Although there had been 6mm to 7mm of rain this week, the cherries were at little risk of rain damage.

"We had one helicopter going this morning to dry out the fruit, but then the wind came up so that was good, and cheaper than using helicopters."

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Gary Bennetts, of Roxburgh, said the cooler weather had slowed the harvest right down.

"It's not just the last couple of days that have affected it but the colder weather in spring too. Usually by this time of year we're getting hot days and hot night-time temperatures too, but those days haven't arrived yet."

The bulk of his crop would be harvested after Christmas and into January. "There used to be a big push to have fruit ready for the Christmas market but now there's more of an export focus and the bulk will be exported in January."

This week's rain had simply "freshened up the fruit a bit". "A wee bit of rain now is fine and it hasn't been enough to cause any damage."

Earnscleugh orchardist Harry Roberts said the cold snap was "a bit of a nuisance, but it's always the way".

He started harvesting his main cherry crop on December 16 last year but estimated it would be three or four days later this year. "If we get three hot days in a row though, all that will change, and it'll speed up again."

- Otago Daily Times

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