Written by  Ken Gaudion

Cherry growing & the COVID-19 procedures

It is difficult enough growing cherries while coping with Nature's negative aspects of weather, without the added impact of living with a pandemic.

The strategies in social distancing and sanitizing have been made clear by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment stating that:
“All businesses must follow advice from the Department of Health and the relevant state and territory governments. They must:
Maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 m between people
Provide hand hygiene products and suitable rubbish bins
Frequently clean and dispose of waste
Limit the amount of people for essential indoor or outdoor gatherings.
Businesses must be able to demonstrate how they are meeting these requirements.
They should also develop continuity plans in case more requirements are imposed.”
Guides to help growers
The following guides have been made available by Hort Innovation for the benefit and information of growers and packers:
PMA A-NZ has produced a Protecting your workforce guide for the fresh produce industry during the COVID-19 situation, with key checklists for operating safely across the farm, packing shed and more.
This guide offers horticulture-specific advice on top of the COVID-19 and your workforce resource produced by Australian Pork Limited, which includes some great general information that all agriculture producers can access.
Update: PMA A-NZ has since also produced a more comprehensive resource, Guidelines for the fresh produce industry: COVID-19 and your workforce. The guide and other PMA resources are all found here.
The National Farmers’ Federation has also released the NFF COVID-19 Workplace Guide.
Specifically for fresh produce processing facilities, the ARC Training Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry has produced this guiding article.
See Safe Work Australia’s guide for the industry, Agriculture: Minimising the risk from COVID-19.
Safe Work Australia also has a general guide for all Australian workplaces, not just agriculture.
Freshcare has produced this fact sheet with information on hygiene, worker training and more, as well as a health declaration form for those entering farms and facilities.
Safe Food Queensland offers this Checklist for reducing workforce impact from COVID-19.
Affects on cherry marketing
As cherries aren’t currently in season, the Hort Innovation Cherry Fund marketing program will not see any significant activities affected at this stage.
The COVID-19 climate will be monitored closely to ensure that the program is well-informed on current trends and consumer sentiment when planning for the next cherry season commences.
Prepare trees for next season
Leaves are fast falling from cherry trees and winter chill will soon begin.
Fruit buds are becoming exposed and the potential for the next cherry season is starting to become apparent.
It will soon be time to prune and to do all those other necessary jobs to maximize the production of premium cherries for markets.
What remains unclear at this point is the impact that COVID-19 (let alone any other external interruptions) will have on exports and on air and sea travel.
In the meantime, stay focussed and aim to produce premium cherries for next cherry season.

See this article and the full links in Tree Fruit May 2020