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Young abuzz with talk of bumper cherry crop

Date

John Thistleton

Valley Fresh Cherry and Stone Fruit Orchard owner Barisha Batinich walks through the blossoming trees on his property near Young as farmers look forward to a bountiful harvest .

Valley Fresh Cherry and Stone Fruit Orchard owner Barisha Batinich walks through the blossoming trees on his property near Young as farmers look forward to a bountiful harvest . Photo: Jay Cronan

In the sheet-white blossoms around Young, honeybees, trucked in by the boxful from Orange, are louder this season.

Aflutter in the spring breeze, the brilliant blossoms and toiling bees are raising hopes of a big fruit set and subsequent bumper harvest.

Barisha Batinich has noticed higher numbers of native bees helping the pollination, buzzing about the Kordia trees, which will yield a deep crimson cherry in time for Christmas, and the Sweetheart variety originating from Canada.

He's heartened by the moisture in the ground, the aftermath of two horrific wet seasons which wiped out the crop. ''It's the steam underneath the ground that can carry a big crop,'' he said.

Mr Batinich's family has been growing cherries in Young for more than 90 years. He's relieved how well this season is progressing.

''The last two lots of rain we have had have come from the south,'' he said. ''It's come through really quickly overnight and the next day it has been clear and perfect.

''According to my father that's how it used to be, not when it hangs around for days and days and days.''

Growers say sweet early-season fruit hooks consumers so hard that Orange, Victoria and Tasmanian producers have healthy sales from their ripening crops early in the new year too.

''We're all praying the weather stays nice and dry and we get a good season,'' says the Tasmanian-based chief executive of Australian Cherrygrowers, Simon Boughey.

NSW Cherrygrowers Association president Scott Coupland said Tasmania's blossoms were finished for the season, but Young's had just started. Yet the Apple Isle's fruit would not ripen until later in the season. ''If we have the season it looks like it could be, where things are nice and dry and fruit quality is good, we produce a lot more sugar in our fruit in Young than anywhere in Australia,'' Mr Coupland said. ''It is six weeks from full bloom to harvest on some varieties. We have people from overseas who can't believe how fast they [cherries] move out here.''

High elevation and warm weather from the west made the difference.

''The Young district, it is a freak of a climate,'' Mr Coupland said.

He said Young stood to gain the most from bilateral talks later this month between Australia and China on exports, because its early-season cherries had the market all to themselves, he said.

Mr Boughey said producers were pushing for mainland growers to gain access to China's markets with an agreed airfreight protocol and improved cold transit process.

''The Chinese have indicated they are happy to let in cherries from Tasmania and pest-free areas, but we want secure access for mainland growers,'' he said.

In a good season Young will produce 4000 tonnes of cherries.

Mr Boughey said last year Australian growers produced 10,500 tonnes and in a good season would grow 13,000 tonnes, most of which was sold on the domestic market.

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