Life on the land in Australia


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Photo: Kaimana lychees ready for packing. (Zara Margolis)

It’s harvest time for lychees on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast.

Ian Groves and his family have been growing tropical fruit on their Bungundarra property since the early 1980s, including lychees, mangoes, and avocadoes.

For the next eight or nine weeks, the Groves family, with the help of half a dozen fresh-faced fruit pickers, will be rising early and heading out to the paddock to pick 10 different varieties lychees.

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Photo: Kaimana lychees ready for packing. (Zara Margolis)

Picking begins at five o’clock in the morning and finishes no later than 10.

This is important because, according to Mr Groves, lychees don’t do well in hot weather.

“We have to pick lychees in the cool because later in the day, as it gets hot, the tree comes under a little bit of heat stress,” he said.

“We’ve found if you pick… them after 10 o’clock they’ll go brown before your eyes and so then they’re not marketable, which is a bit of a disaster.”

When picking is finished, workers empty their bags into crates and load them onto utes to be taken back up to the shed.

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After a quick bite to eat and some cold water, everyone heads into the packing shed where the harvests are sorted, washed, weighed and packed.

“Essentially the fruit gets tipped in onto a creep feed, up some inspection rollers… then the fruit’s washed, up another set of inspection rollers and then onto a smaller grader where the other staff bag the fruit off,” said Mr Groves.

“Then [they are put] into the cartons, and straight into the cold room where they are air-stacked overnight to make sure the cartons are fully cold, and then restacked onto cartons the next day and trucked straight out.

“The majority of our product goes to domestic markets, but occasionally we do some business with exporters.

“This morning we sent out a nice order to Tahiti.”

Mr Groves says on a good day he can expect at about a tonne and a half of lychees to move through the packing shed.

He says he hopes to harvest between 30 to 40 tonnes of fruit by the end of the season.

“It’s not a huge crop… but prices are okay so as long as we’ve got fruit it’s good.

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“The bottom of the market at the moment at wholesale is six or seven dollars a kilo for premium fruit, depending on the variety.

“The one we are packing here at the moment is a premium variety [called] kaimana and we’re actually getting 15 dollars a kilo for them for export, and our domestic guys are telling us they’ll return that sort of money as well.”

Nathan Herbet is one of ten workers in the shed today.

He’s 13-years-old, making him the youngest of the group.

And while many of his friends will be at home these school holidays, he says he’s happy to be working.

“I just thought ‘I’m in my holidays doing nothing’ so I might as well get a job,” he said.

“It’s pretty easy, it’s just really hot.

“Whenever they want me they just need to call me. I’m happy to pick any fruit and learn.”

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And it won’t be long before Nathan and the other workers start doing just that: picking other fruits.

Mr Groves says his mangoes will be ready for harvest in the next few weeks, making for a busy summer.

“The mango crop is looking good,” he said.

“We’ll start them just after Christmas.

“The lychees will be interspersed with mangoes right through to the end of January, and the mangoes will continue into March.

“We’ve been doing a lot of preparation for the season and it’s actually a relief to be starting to pick.”

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Photo: Soeuy Tung lychees being harvested. (Zara Margolis)

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Henry Sapiecha

December 19th, 2014
Topic: FRUIT VEG SMALL CROPS, HARVESTING, Lychees, Queensland Tags: , , , , , ,

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