Mild conditions have pushed the start of the cherry harvest back by up to two weeks for some orchards around Young, having a domino effect on workers who have travelled to town following the fruit harvest.
Over 200 cherry pickers have passed through the doors of a local employment agency over the last two weeks only to learn there’s currently no work available. Some have since set-up camp at local rest stops in anticipation of the beginning of harvest, while others have moved on and will return when work begins.
Joanne Johnson of Help Temp Agency said the delayed harvest has caught everyone off guard.
“We’re just hoping for some hot weather now which is predicted for this week so we can start placing the pickers before they move on,” she said.
“We've had a great response – a lot still haven’t come to Young yet and I’m trying to hold them off until the cherries are ready. The demand’s always high.”
Local orchard owner and Cherry Growers Association committee member, Scott Coupland, said come another week of warm weather the harvest should be underway on the northern side of town consisting of the earlier varieties.
“The mild conditions have pushed the start of the season back a bit, but warmer weather predicted this week is expected to liven the trees up a bit,” he said. Last year’s season was a bit earlier, this year we’re probably a week behind.”
Despite a rough start to the season with record rainfall and a hail storm, Scott said the season is shaping up to be a positive one.
“The earlier varieties are starting to turn and show a little bit of colour, and the later varieties are growing as well.
“Fruit size looks good, quality looks excellent, and prices have been quite high in the domestic market and the export market as well.
“If we get some good weather it means the quality will be good and we’ll put the majority of our cherries into a box. If the wholesale prices remain quite strong, everyone can do well.”
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