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Australian Lychee Season Extends Further Into Summer Due To Unseasonal Weather

ABC Rural / By Megan Hughes and Katrina Beavan 28 Jan 2023

Consumers can expect to see more lychees on supermarket shelves for longer this year as cooler and wetter conditions result in a later harvest than usual.

And despite a bumper crop being picked, prices have stayed steady, meaning the delay is also good news for growers such as Lush Lychees in central Queensland.

Lychee Berries Growing In Queensland Now!

Owners Krystal and Paul Caton have processed more than 120 tonnes of fruit since December at their 5,000 tree orchard, 30 kilometres north-west of Rockhampton.

"This year we've had the greatest season that we could have asked for in the last seven years of owning our orchard," Ms Caton said.

"This really expands our market having a number of varieties that have all produced really well this year."

About 280km south, near Bundaberg, Australian Lychees Association president Derek Foley's orchard had produced a record crop.

"[The crop is] 40 per cent up on what I've ever done before," he said.

Mr Foley said the volume of fruit was up on last year across the industry but prices had stayed steady despite the increased supply.

"It's been solid," he said.

"I don't think there'd be too many growers complaining about the price."

Late but great
Mr Foley said the fruit developed later than normal due to cooler temperatures and wet weather that stretched well into spring.

"The flowering started reasonably early but the gestation period right through to the fruit set was incredibly long," he said.

"We do get that a little bit sometimes but when you get a fairly hot summer things catch up.

"This summer has been quite mild, things just haven't caught up."

Ms Caton said the unseasonable conditions put their crop about 10 days behind but it hadn't compromised quality.

"The fruit is still holding on and it's still great right to the very end," she said.

She said the delay was beneficial because it spaced out their picking more evenly.

"It allows us to start with the early variety, finish that variety before moving on to the next as they ripen within the six weeks," she said.

While the northern and central regions are starting to wrap up their picking, growers on the Sunshine Coast are only just starting.

The great American lychee dream
Asia has traditionally been a key export market for lychee growers, but six years ago they moved to capitalise on increasing interest from customers in the USA.

Mr Foley said it became a critical market when trade bans in China impacted exports to Hong Kong.

"Fortunately we had the foresight to prime that American market," he said.

"While it was small when the Chinese market collapsed, we were able to ramp up the amount of fruit going into the US.

"That market has grown exponentially and that's where our future is."

Ms Caton is part of a group of growers who pool their produce to export together under a single brand.

This year a large portion of the crop went to the United States.

"There is a big market over there that seems to be growing for us," she said

"We're sending to New Zealand and we've also sent to Canada and to Hong Kong."

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