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TAS Country : March 10th 2011
rch 11, 2011 17 CLOSE EYE: Justin Miller checks some pears on his Hillwood orchard. Pictures: ROSS MARSDEN There have been a lot of people leave the industry and it's getting to the right level now where the market isn't being oversupplied.' pears ience pears ience Most of the Millers' cherries are destined for export markets and this year many were sent to Taiwan. Despite a challenging season due to prolonged wet weather, the Millers' cherries were still top quality. About 25 people will be employed by the Millers during the apple and pear harvest season which ends in late April. Once picked, the apples are graded and placed in specially designed cartons before being stored. Like most packhouses these days, the fruit moves through a mechanised grading and packing system where employees check the fruit to make sure it meets the required standards. Years ago however, each piece of fruit was wrapped in wax paper to prevent rubbing and bruising during transport. ''The women that used to do it were amazing,'' Brendan said. ''They could pack more back then than we can pack now and they were wrapping everything.'' Justin said it was vital that the fruit went into storage in good condition. ''If the trees are healthy and fed well, the fruit will store well,'' he said. ''Basically we're putting the apples to sleep, so you have to manage everything and keep monitoring it to make sure the fruit is stored properly.'' Once the apples are placed in the cool stores all the air is sucked out and a specific mix of 2-2.5 per cent oxygen and 1.5-2 per cent carbon dioxide is used to maintain the fruit quality. ''A lot of people don't know that apples are stored and are quite surprised when we tell them that we don't grow apples year round,'' Brendan said. For the locals however, the first new season's apples are a highlight. ''We get people coming in asking for the new apples and they are quite disappointed if we don't have any,'' Justin said. A small shop at one end of the packing shed sells locally-grown vegetables, fruit and homemade preserves as well as the Millers' apples and pears. Once picking is completed, the pruning season starts and will run until it is almost time to start thinning out the fruit in late spring. Justin said producing apples was a year-long process and harvesting them was the most crucial time. ''What we don't want now is lots of wind or any hail,'' he said. ''We keep a pretty close eye on the weather at this time of the year, but there's not much we can do.'' While fruit colour does not matter as much with pears, Justin said the right conditions were needed to ensure apples coloured up sufficiently prior to harvest. Cool nights with dew followed by warm, sunny days are the best conditions for producing good colour in apples. Hopes of good prices this season are high as demand for apples across the country increases. Justin said he was anticipating a good season. ''There have been a lot of people leave the industry and it's getting to the right level now where the market isn't being oversupplied,'' he said. But Justin said the good market conditions might be short-lived now Chinese and New Zealand apples were being imported. ''I don't think we'll see years like this once New Zealand apples come in because once the prices go up they'll just send in more fruit,'' he said. ''Unfortunately our costs keep going up but prices haven't increased at the same rate and I don't think the imports will help at all.'' Despite some of the challenges facing the industry, Justin said they enjoyed being in the orchard game. ''It's a good lifestyle,'' he said. ''You work close to home and you're outside a lot. ''So we really enjoy the lifestyle.''
March 3rd 2011
March 17th 2011