The price of cherries is expected to surge ahead of Christmas as growers lament their worst season in decades.
Recent storms wreaked havoc on crops in NSW and SA, slashing some growers’ outputs by up to 80 per cent.
More than half of the cherry orchards in the Adelaide Hills were damaged by winds and heavy rain that broke records in SA last week.
Parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges received four times their typical December rainfall in the seven-day rain event alone — 101mm, compared to the long-term December average of 25-50mm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
One grower, Tom Lucas of Cherries at Verdun, estimated between 50 and 60 per cent of his crop had been impacted in some way, with “hundreds” of cherries having split or rotted.
“We’ve had about four inches of rain in the last three weeks,” Mr Lucas told Channel 7.
Another SA grower, Brenton Green, estimated he had lost a staggering 80 per cent of his crop.
“We’ve probably lost about close to half a million dollars [for the entire year] of valued cherries that are gone,” he told the Adelaide Advertiser.
“Cherries and splitting goes hand-in-hand, but this year has been the worst from what I can remember and I’ve been doing this for about 36 years.”
Cherry Growers Australia board member Tony Hannaford, who grows in Gumeracha, SA, concurred, telling Channel 7 2023 was “probably the worst season for about 20-years.”
The rain event devastated what was expected to be a bumper cherry season.
Production was up 12 per cent compared to the last five years and, just last month, Cherry Growers of Australia acting president and SA farmer Nick Noske was singing his praises of the season.
“It has almost been a sort of perfect growing season so far,” Mr Noske told the ABC in November.
“It seems to be a pretty similar situation across the board … I’ve seen some great fruit in supermarkets already.”
That optimism has drastically changed.
“[Now] we could be looking at $60,000 to $70,000 in lost revenue,” SA grower Mr Lucas said.
He claimed to have spoken to some orchardists who were considering letting their fruit rot on the trees because they feared the cost of labour will outstrip revenue.
Devastated crops mean low supply, which is likely to hike up prices at supermarkets.
Presently, cherries cost $15.90 a kilo at Woolworths and $16.50 at Coles, but those prices are expected to surge as the current supply runs out.
One specialist cherry retailer identified by news.com.au was selling the fruit for between $60 and $125 for two- or five-kilo boxes.
Other reports indicate cherries are likely to cost as much as $40 a kilo.