20 Jan 2014

Wet weather hits Central Otago cherry harvest

8:23 am on 20 January 2014

Despite an unusually early start to the cherry harvest in Central Otago, exports so far are well down on last season.

cherry tree

Photo: PHOTO NZ

Growers say the highly variable weather is to blame.

Central Otago is the main growing region for cherries and provides about 95% of exports.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman, Roxburgh grower Gary Bennetts, says the biggest losses have been from rain splitting the fruit and otherwise disrupting picking.

He says cherries need extended periods of dryness to attain the desired quality and there has been a lot of rain from the end of December through until the beginning of the new year.

Mr Bennetts says the early season was due to a mild winter which meant earlier blossom and fruit.

Mr Bennetts expects the size of the Central Otago cherry crop to be down on last year, which was also light.

However the shortage of cherries from New Zealand and elsewhere is helping to keep prices strong in Asian markets.