Apple picking season kicks off

Mouats Farm gala apples, picked late last week, from the Mouats Farm Facebook page.

Orchards across Batlow will see their picking season kick off this week, with favourable weather conditions leading to a strong yield.

John Power, the General Manager of Batlow fruit cooperative Batlow Apples, said a wet spring and a relatively mild summer had led to substantially more apples in crates than 2016.

“We didn’t get as many really high temperature days as we have in the last few years, so sunburn of the fruit has not been as big an issue,” he explained.

“It’s also helped by the fact that at the start of the season everyone had dams full of water, which has allowed them to keep the water up during the heat.”

Greg Mouat of Mouats Farm agreed that the gods had been favourable in the lead up to this harvest.

“Everything’s looking good to go; the new varieties are looking good,” he said.

“We started picking last Thursday and it’s all coming off very nicely in terms of quality. “It’s looking to be a promising year. Generally the crop in Batlow is clean, and there’s been no major weather events to disrupt quality.”

More apples means more trucks, however, and Mr Power asked the Batlow community to be aware there will be heavier traffic on the roads in the coming months.

“We’re always conscious of safety of people with machinery and trucks all starting to hit the road,” he said.

“Just as a reminder to the locals in Batlow, the presence of trucks moving around with bins of apples is going to ramp up over the course of the next week and within three weeks it’ll be very busy, especially since the harvest is going to be a fair bit bigger than last year.

“We also think it’s going to run a bit late this year; it may even run into early May by the time the harvest has finished.”

Batlow Apples pack on average one million cartons of apples every year, selling predominantly to independent retailers with a smaller percentage going to Coles and Woolworths.

Uncertainty around the backpacker tax late last year had many in the industry uncertain if they would have the workforce to handle all of their product, as the majority of agricultural workers are from overseas on working holiday visas.

Mr Mouat said that while he wasn’t impacted by the changes due to using the same workforce as last year, he has seen significantly lower numbers of backpackers in Batlow looking for work.

“We would usually be getting almost one a day showing up at this stage, to such an extent that we usually put signs up saying we aren’t hiring, but we just aren’t seeing that at all,” he said.

However, Mr Power said that they still have enough workers around to get the apples packed.

“All is looking well on that front,” he said.