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Season promising for fruit growers

This season shows promising signs for the Goulburn Valley's fruit harvest.

LAURA GRIFFIN November 20, 2012 4:05am

Fruit Grower Jessie Uppal


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Fruit growers are cautiously optimistic about this year’s harvests.

Shepparton East orchardist Sunny Uppal grows stone fruit, pears and apples with his two brothers, Jessie and Sam. The brothers have 49ha of orchards over three properties.

Mr Uppal said at this stage of the season, everything was looking good.

‘‘We’ll start picking apricots next week and it looks like it will be an average crop,’’ he said

Mr Uppal expects the other stone fruit to have an average crop similar to that of last year.

This season’s pear crop, on the other hand, looks to be a bit bigger and better quality than last year’s, which was affected by black spot.

‘‘It might be too many pears, especially Williams, for the cannery to take,’’ he said.

‘‘But there are less Granny Smiths than last year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because last year there were too many, and hopefully this year we will get a better price.’’

He said Uppal Orchards produced more fruit for the fresh fruit market than for processing.

Mr Uppal said the harvest should go well as long as they did not have extreme weather conditions, particularly heavy rain or hail.

‘‘They say it will be a dry summer and that should not be too much of a problem because there is plenty of water.’’

Myf Ahmet also grows apples, pears, nashi and stone fruit with his two brothers Vebi and Zini.

The Ahmet brothers have had orchards at Shepparton East since 1955. They now have 25ha of fruit trees.

Mr Ahmet said despite predicting good crops for all fruit and no pests or diseases, times were still difficult.

‘‘Our expenses are too high — labour, transport, sprays. And electricity prices have got out of hand,’’ he said.

The brothers have one storage shed and a 300-bin cool room that is expensive to run.

Mr Ahmet said the cannery was taking less fruit and there had been a surplus of fruit for the fresh fruit market in recent years.

The orchardist said the cool weather had pushed back the growing season for stone fruit.

‘‘All we need is a few warm days,’’ he said.

DPI Tatura horticulture extension officer Sam Lolicato said this trend concerned many growers.

‘‘The DPI is helping with ways to grow more fruit for the fresh market, including developing different varieties and improving handling and distribution,’’ Mr Lolicato said.

He said steps were being taken to establish or expand export markets, including in China and South-East Asia.

He said the weather had been good so far and there was a good water allocation. Mostly dry weather with temperatures between 20°C and 30°C and no extreme events, including hail, would be ideal for the next few months.

‘‘The last two summers have been wet and we have seen an increased incidence of tropical diseases including some fungi and Queensland fruit fly,’’ he said.

Mr Lolicato said people were currently optimistic about the season.

He said apples had good flowering, but the fruit set was variable.

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