Rain, floods wash out summer fruit crops

The fruit salad bowl at Christmas lunch could be a little emptier this year, as extreme weather hampers summer production.

Widespread rainfall, storms and flooding across eastern Australia have affected the production of stone fruits including peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots, Summerfruit Australia chief executive Trevor Ranford said.

"We are seeing less early summer fruit this year due to the cooler weather and rain and flood impacts."

South Australian stone fruit farmer Jason Size has been in the business more than 28 years and has never seen so much rain on his crops.

His apricot trees are doing it particularly hard with every variety splitting due to moisture.

"It's harder to find the good fruit than it is a bad fruit," he told AAP.

With about a quarter to a third of his crop already lost, Mr Size worries pests and sodden paddocks could make life more difficult still.

"Financially, it's heartbreaking," he said.

Orchards in Orange, NSW, the Victorian centres of Shepparton, Swan Hill, Corbam and Mildura, and Renmark, in South Australia, have been hit with constant extreme weather in recent months.

"When you think you're starting to get some warm weather, within a week, you've got another rainfall event which just causes havoc," Mr Size said.

Victoria produces 70 per cent of Australia's stone fruit and has experienced widespread crop destruction.

Mr Ranford said farmers were having to pump water from inundated orchards and were struggling with a scarcity of sunshine and warm temperatures, which encourage fruits to produce sugars and grow.

"If the fruit doesn't come up to growers' and customers' specifications then that fruit is not harvested and disposed of by the grower," he said.

Customers should expect to see higher prices, Mr Ranford said.

After a tough couple of years with COVID-19, labour shortages and rising costs, it was now the extreme weather slowing production.

However volumes will still increase through Christmas and through to February.

"Australian horticultural producers are resilient people and they will work through these situations," Mr Ranford said.