Article by: Hari Yellina
Despite an unusual weather occurrence that reduced production, a Tasmanian cherry grower believes the summer was another strong season for the company. The output of Black Devil Tasmanian Cherries may have been higher if not for the unfavourable conditions, according to David Allanson, Farm Manager of Lennonville Orchards Pty Ltd, which produces them. “With the exception of a rain occurrence midway through the season, our season was wonderful,” he remarked. “We got 35 millimetres in roughly 20 hours and lost around 30 tonnes because to cherry breaking.” We would have a really significant harvest if it hadn’t happened, but we still harvested roughly 90 tonnes.
Unfortunately, rain is always our greatest threat during picking season, and with so much rain falling in such a short period of time, there isn’t much we can do about it. Apart from that, the fruit was superb, with unusually high sugar content due to the prolonged ripening times caused by the mild summer temperatures.” Bruny Island, in southern Tasmania, is home to the orchard. There are four orchards totaling 14 hectares that produce roughly 100 tonnes of cherries every year, including Van, Lapin, Sylvia, Sweet Georgia, Kordia, Regina, and Sweetheart, as well as an exclusive ‘Black Devil’ variety that is a hybrid with the Van cherry. Sweet Georgia accounts for over 60% of total output, with two of the most popular varieties.
Mr Allanson explained, “We’ve always been a boutique cherry farm.” “We exclusively pack our larger sized fruit in the well-known Black Devil boxes that we sell with our brand on them; we don’t load anything smaller than 28 millimetres in them.” We’ve packaged the 32+mm and 30-32mm in two-kilo boxes, while the 28-30mm is offered in five-kilo boxes. Because our name has always been associated with huge cherries, everything smaller is placed into generic Tasmanian cherry boxes. We’re one of the few farms left that colour picks throughout harvest, and we’ll pick in the same orchards twice or even three times to get the best colour and size fruit.
The organisation still employs mechanical size grading, and the packing shed manager, Geoff Bain, who has been in charge of quality control for about 20 years, oversees a huge team of individuals in the packing shed who grade and sort cherries by hand rather than using an optical grader. “Ian, Petra, Greta, Geoff, and I, together with the rest of our great team, maintain incredibly high standards throughout the year, from flowering to harvest, to ensure that the cherries in every box that leaves our farm are always the same colour, size, and quality.”
At the Sydney Markets, Black Devil Cherries has an exclusive wholesaler arrangement with Fresh Produce Group. Brendon Lai, Business Manager Wholesale, is in charge of cherry distribution both in Australia and globally. Almost all of the fruit is sold in Australia, with the majority of the supply remaining on the local market due to the incredible prices attained by a cult-like following of brand buyers. Only a minor portion of the crop was sent to Vietnam this season.
Mr Allanson explained, “Domestic demand is usually robust since everyone who knows the Black Devil brand is absolutely wild about cherries.” “Our fruit is generally sold before it even reaches their sales floor when it is sent to Sydney markets.”