Central Queensland pineapple farmers are busy picking as they prepare for the Chinese New Year.
The pineapples are used for decorations during the celebrations and symbolise wealth and good fortune.
Yeppoon pineapple grower Peter Sherriff says they only have about 3,000 more to pick for the festivities.
“The packing houses have requested that we leave the tops on the smaller fruit for Chinese New Year,” he says.
“We’ve been told we need to do 22,000 so we’re leaving a few on now.”
Yeppoon supplies about 90 per cent of Australia’s pineapple market at this time of year.
Peter says they pick about 17,500 pineapples a day and still have another week of harvesting to go.
“We’ve been doing nine-hour days, seven-days-a-week since Christmas so we’ve had one day off and that was New Year’s day,” he says.
Peter says dry conditions have caused problems for growers.
“It’s due to the extremely wet weather we had earlier in the year, the plants couldn’t grow big enough because they’re sitting in water and then we went into extremely dry conditions so that made the plants stress and when they stress, they just produce the flower out of season,” he says.
He says that means some fruit is ready to be picked earlier than others.
“We’ll come back later when it’s mature and pick that again,” he says.
“That means we’re walking some of the crops two, three times so it’s not very efficient so that’s why natural flowering hurts us more than anything.”
As a result, the fruit is smaller this summer but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in flavour according to Peter.
“This year has been exceptional because we’ve had that drier season and it’s made a smaller pineapple, it’s actually probably made it a little bit better in quality,” says Peter.
At the Tropical Pines packing shed, manager Joe Craggs says about 700,000 pineapples have been packed and shipped off to various parts of the country.
“Pretty much the day after Boxing day, the growers in the region and the packing shed here have been going flat out,” he says.
“Normally the peak summer crop comes in the second or third week of January but this year, because of the very long dry spell, the fruit has come a bit earlier and that’s meant the fruit is a bit smaller.”
If you’re not sure quite how to serve them, Peter says they’re great cold, straight out of the fridge or baked.
“Mum makes a pretty mean pineapple tart so that’s all right,” he laughs.
SOURCE: ABC.NET.AU RURAL