Stone Fruit Season in Australia Marred by Severe Weather 

The Stone Fruit season in Australia unfolds with a stark reality – damaged crops, unharvested fruit, diminished sales to retailers, substantial waste, heightened prices for consumers, and grower losses reaching up to 50%.

This season, fruit growers all over Australia are anticipating more substantial losses as their crops faced devastation from intense rainfall and thunderstorms earlier this month. The month of January unleashed erratic weather conditions across the growing regions in south-east Australia, witnessing weekly rainfall levels exceeding 100 mm in certain areas of eastern New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, as reported by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

For the second consecutive year, the severe weather in Victoria has dealt a blow to the region’s stone fruit season production, impacting 75% of Australia’s total harvest, including nectarines, peaches, plums, and apricots. Recent storms post-Christmas wreaked havoc on Swan Hill and the Goulburn Valley, causing substantial damage to hundreds of tonnes of fruit.

How it has affected growers:

Summerfruit Australia CEO Trevor Ranford recently told Nine News that stone fruit growers will lose “millions of dollars” because of the damaged crops, especially in Victoria’s Swan Hill and Shepparton regions, and South Australia’s Adelaide Hills.

Despite Victoria typically contributing to approximately 75 percent of Australia’s stone fruit, a significant portion of the state’s peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots were ripe for harvest when the rain struck, leading to the splitting and rotting of fruit skins, as noted by Ranford. Growers are making efforts to salvage whatever they can, but a substantial portion of the fruit is expected to be unsuitable for sale, resulting in significant waste. Some growers may experience losses of up to 50 percent of their crops, according to Ranford.

Ranford suggests that the likelihood of price increases for stone fruit in stores is significant, citing plums already reaching $16 per kilogram at his local retailer.

And Dean Morpeth, Chairman of Summerfruit Australia, shared insights with ABC News, revealing that 20% to 40% of Swan Hill’s fruit remains unharvested, facing potential damage and significant financial losses for growers. Hail left visible marks on the fruit, rendering it unsaleable, while heavy rain compromised the skin, making it prone to rot. Consequently, a considerable portion of damaged fruit may go to waste or be repurposed as animal feed, posing financial challenges for growers.

Major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths are currently evaluating the impact on stone fruit availability, as farmers strive to meet stringent retail standards. Some fruit, still fit for human consumption, has been downgraded to “class two,” resulting in reduced payments for growers. 

Lets support our growers:

We hope that all of the major retailers can find a way to support the Victorian Stone Fruit growers, and we hope that in these difficult times they do not push the prices up, because ultimately the higher the price, the less desire for the consumer to buy the produce.

Coles and Woolworths said they still expect a good supply of stone fruit and dried fruit in stores despite the recent wet weather and did not comment on future pricing. “At this stage we don’t expect there will be any major impact to stone fruit or dried fruit availability or quality,” a Coles spokesman told

We also hope that shoppers can look past the fact that some fruit may not look perfect, but will still taste top quality, and that they will continue to purchase stone fruit that has visible marks in order to support the growers. Because you can’t have an Aussie Summer without stone fruit!

What else can be done to help?

Perhaps a campaign similar to South Australia’s Hailstorm Heroes, that previously supported apple and pear growers, is needed now to support our stone fruit growers?

In the wake of a storm that is estimated to have impacted more than 80 per cent of South Australian apples and pears, Hort Innovation launched a ‘Hailstorm Heroes’ campaign to assure consumers that fruit with a few spots and dots is still delicious.

Hort Innovation are a grower-owned, not-for-profit, research and development corporation, delivering more than $100 million in research, development and marketing activities each year with funding from the Australian Government, grower levies and other sources.

Delivered in partnership with the local industry, the ‘Hailstorm Heroes’ campaign featured in supermarkets and greengrocers in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and was funded using the apple and pear marketing levy.

The goal was for shoppers to look past the spots and to support the growers by purchasing and eating Hailstorm Hero apples and pears.

The 2018 campaign was so successful that the campaign returned again in 2019 when once again after the South Australian apple growers were hit hard by Summer hail storms and were are expected to lose 50-70 per cent of their income that season.

What Naturpac is doing to support growers:

Naturpac demonstrates its commitment to assisting growers in challenging circumstances by initiating proactive measures through its Customer Service team. The team intensifies its efforts to aid affected businesses by scrutinising forecasts meticulously and mitigating operational impacts, including optimising stock management and facilitating redistribution. The overarching objective is to relieve business pressures and provide support in any feasible manner.

However, Naturpac goes beyond that and actively collaborates with growers and packers in the field. For example, in recent months, Naturpac has partnered with sheds across Swan Hill to implement industrial dryers within packing facilities. This initiative ensures that the fruit undergoes thorough drying, enabling the effective application of label adhesive during the packing process.

A final note on the stone fruit season:

As the stone fruit season in Australia grapples with the aftermath of severe weather conditions for the second consecutive year, the challenges faced by fruit growers are daunting. Damaged crops, unharvested fruit, and the subsequent lack of sales to retailers paint a grim picture of significant waste and economic losses for growers, with some experiencing up to a 50% reduction in their yields.

The impact of intense rainfall and thunderstorms, particularly in Victoria, has taken a toll on 75% of Australia’s stone fruit production of nectarines, peaches, plums, and apricots. The recent storms after Christmas inflicted substantial damage in key growing regions such as Swan Hill and the Goulburn Valley, adding to the woes of fruit growers.

As growers strive to salvage what remains of their crops, higher prices for consumers looms on the horizon. The ripple effect of this unfortunate reality extends beyond the orchards, resonating in the retail market. With damaged fruit and reduced supply, consumers may face increased costs for stone fruit. 

In this challenging period, the resilience of Australia’s fruit growers is tested once again. The hope is that, with time, support from retailers and consumers, and favourable weather conditions, the industry will recover from the setbacks, and the next stone fruit season will bring a more prosperous and bountiful harvest.

Want to learn more about Naturpac?

Naturpac are an eco friendly packaging company in NSW, Australia created by J-Tech Systems to bring a new level of farm produce sustainable packaging to the fresh produce industry. Environmental packaging and sustainable produce packaging are Naturpac’s specialty with a focus on recycled packaging, recyclable packaging, biodegradable packaging and compostable packaging. 

We are passionate about sustainability education, especially sustainability education in schools and for children to help young consumers of today shape the world for tomorrow. 

At Naturpac we offer a broad range of fresh produce packaging supplies that are environmentally friendly. If you are in the fresh produce industry check out our range here.