Cherry trees are largely grown for their fruit, which in Australia is produced over the period from late October to mid-February. The fruit is eaten fresh (sweet cherries) or processed (both sweet and sour cherries) and may be sold fresh, frozen, canned and dried. There are many ornamental varieties of Prunus used in floristry, gardening and landscaping that are prized for their blossom. The wood of some species is valued as fine furniture timber.
The word ‘cherry’ is derived from the name of the Turkish town of Cerasus. Cultivated for thousands of years, the sweet cherry is believed to have originated in the Caspian and Black seas region of south-eastern Europe, and is indigenous to most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa. It is thought that the Romans took cherries to Britain during its occupation in the first century AD.
In Australia, the first cherry orchard was planted at Young in south western New South Wales in 1878. The industry has thrived in this region since. Young is considered to be the ‘Cherry Capital’ of Australia and hosts the National Cherry festival each year.
While the Australian cherry industry is mainly focused on the domestic fresh fruit market, the industry is expanding the export market, with significant increases in cherry tree plantings over the past decade. Exported Australian cherries command relatively high premiums in the international market.
The Cherry Growers Australia Inc is the member-based organisation that represents the interests of its member states and orchardists nationally. There are representative organisations for cherry growers in most states as well.
Facts and figures
- Cherries have been cultivated across Europe, Asia and North Africa for thousands of years, growing only in temperate climates
- Cherries have been grown commercially in Australia since 1878, with over 80 varieties being grown
- The Australian cherry industry is spread across six states, and there are over 2,800 hectares under commercial production producing over 18,000 tonnes each year
- 70% of the approximately AU$164 million annual harvest is sold to the domestic market
- Cherry orchards are susceptible to rain, hail and pest damage, which often requires them to be netted and/or covered, resulting in high operational costs
- Australia exports cherries to 30 countries
The Australian Cherry Industry is valued at around AU$164 million. 70% of the national crop is supplied to domestic markets, with the remainder being exported to 30 countries.
Australia is a small producer on a global scale, accounting for less than 1% of global production and less than 0.2% of world exports.
There are over 2,800 hectares under commercial production in Australia. Annual national production is about 18,000 tonnes, with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania producing over 95% of the national crop.
Cherries are produced by about 485 businesses, which vary in nature from family-operated farms to properties operated by corporate bodies and investment schemes.