Heatwave Conditions Takes A Toll On Australian Fruit And Vegetable Growers
Most parts of Australia have sweltered through a heatwave over the past fortnight, with daily temperatures regularly in the high-thirties to mid-forties.
On Thursday, South Australia's Port Augusta reached 49.5 degrees, just 10 days after it created international headlines for reaching around 49 degrees at the same time as temperatures were below minus 56 degrees in parts of Russia. It is a similar picture across all states, with conditions topping 45 degrees plus in nearly all areas.
The hot weather has taken a toll on Australia's farmers, with many regions still in drought, and for Australia's fruit and vegetable growers, many are battling through these conditions still getting the fruit to market, although it is still having an effect.
The Australian Mango Industry Association reported: "We have had the extreme heat in North Queensland and some rain that brought forward some of the harvesting in North Queensland and resulted in some fruit becoming ripe on the trees and unable to be marketed. But overall, growers have managed those ups and downs."
Further south, in Central Queensland's Rockhampton region, Lush Lychees were expecting production to be nearly double on last year, although there were some issues with the weather this summer.
"We had periods of drought, which made watering difficult with our river system, and we had high temperature days which lasted for a week," co-owner Krystal Caton said. "So that was a bit difficult on the fruit causing heat stress and fruit drop. But other than that, we got through and got them all picked this week. The high temperature and heat it caused a lot of fruit drop - so we lost a lot of fruit and it caused some heat stress on some of our varieties. But that's farming - working with the weather."
Brisbane Produce Market report also noted: "This week, the heatwave continues to impact supplies on vegetables. We’re seeing a limited supply of broccoli, cauliflower and celery but tomatoes are bouncing back, particularly the grape and cherry varieties."
While it is the same story for vegetables in Victoria. The East Gippsland Food Cluster says that this year production has been variable due to the weather conditions.
"It depends on the crop and we have had a few hot, above 40-degree days, and naturally that takes a toll," Industry Development Officer Shayne Hyman said. "With baby leaf (lettuce) there has been some tip-burn. There has been early beans and they are pretty good. But it is all weather dependent, meaning this week's crop is good, while next weeks could be tipped-in. People are wanting broccoli, and brassicas are a winter crop. But because people don't follow seasonality of vegetables, they want it now, so broccoli production has been down, and that has been because of the weather - not very much rain and long hot periods. I was talking to the biggest cauliflower producer, and they are going to turn it all in (for the season), because it was coming along beautifully, and on that particular crop the heads burst, which meant it was un-sellable."
Production wise, Budou Farms, in Merbein in the Victoria’s south, is behind harvest time slightly between a week to 10 days. But the table grape grower is looking at a slightly above average year in terms of volumes, despite some issues with the weather.
"With the weather we have had a few heatwaves and the next few days are meant to be very intense," co-owner Enrique Rossi said. "From tomorrow we have two days of 45 degrees, which is not good. We are a little down on rainfall throughout the year. In winter, during one month we only got 4 millimetres of rain, which is very worrying. But we have to take the good out of the heatwaves - and this extreme weather we have got in Australia, makes the fruit have exceptional flavour."
Publication date : 1/25/2019