MANDARIN prices are expected to firm this season on the back of crop damage inflicted by a violent hail storm that carved up one of Queensland's most important citrus growing regions.
Around Gayndah there are an estimated 30 citrus growers, most holding multiple orchards, who collectively produce about 40% of the mandarin crop in Queensland.
We will be trying to get recognition for these growers as the storm could not have happened at a worse time,.
About one third of them were touched in some way by the pre-Christmas hail storm that damaged trees and shredded fruit north of Gayndah as it tracked the Burnett River through the riverside citrus zone.
Gayndah and District Fruit Growers Association secretary Judy Shepherd said the peak body was committed to seeking financial assistance for owners of the storm-wracked orchards.
"From next week we will be trying to get recognition for these growers as the storm could not have happened at a worse time," Mrs Shepherd said.
"The destruction was catastrophic for them on a personal and financial level.
"Next week I'll be approaching the North Burnett Regional Council as a first step to see if we can get some level of support for them."
While the final impact of the storm will not be clear until the picking season is underway, the early predictions are not good.
"Conservatively 10% of the Gayndah crop has been destroyed," Mrs Shepherd said.
"For the 10 growers worst affected by the storm, it has been a 100% crop loss."
Mrs Shepherd said these growers would have no crop prospects until 2014 and that harvest in that season would be degraded due to damage to the existing fruit trees.
Seasonal workers are in some orchards taking marked fruit of some trees and thinning the mandarin crop in readiness for the harvest which normally begins in March or April, depending the season.
The imperial varietal mandarin, much is loved because of its easy peel skin, is reported to be ripening well for its March-June harvest window though there are concerns that fruit pickers may be hard to obtain.
"It is just a feeling that I have - maybe the cost of getting to Australia from Europe is too much this year - but there does not seem to be the same level of inquiries as this time last year," Mrs Shepherd said.
"It may not be that easy to get the workers when we need them."
The ellendale, hickson and fremont varieties will come off mid-season with the tougher skinned murcott - destined for the export market - to be picked July through to September or October.
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