Kununurra is a town in far northern Western Australia. Mango growers in Kununurra are facing one of their most challenging mango harvests yet, off the back of a decade of dwindling yields out of Western Australia's Ord Irrigation Scheme.
At its peak, WA's largest mango-growing region produced well in excess of half a million trays. But the forecast this year is not so positive, with no more than 66,000 trays expected to be picked and packed this season.
Poor seasonal conditions have not been kind to many orchards in Kununurra with some packing sheds and picking operations already finishing up due to extremely low volumes of fruit. High temperatures and strong winds impacted flowering before the season began, then some growers copped damage to their fruit after a severe storm earlier in the month.
It has also been difficult to secure reliable labour due to travel restrictions which have limited access to backpackers and seasonal workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
But there is a silver lining this season — for those still picking in parts of Kununurra who missed out on wind and storm damage, the quality of the fruit has been exceptional. At ORIA Orchards, Kununurra farmer Chris Robinson said his R2E2's were fetching a premium in the Perth market over interstate mangoes from the Northern Territory.
"Kununurra's yields are down a long, long way on previous years," Mr Robinson told abc.net.au. "Fortunately, out this side of town, there are three or four growers who have hit it on the nose and are doing a bit better. We went through a few years where we got very poor yields and very poor results, so about three or four years ago we totally changed our growing strategies and it seems to be paying off. We haven't been hit by any of the storms, or had any wind to do a lot of damage. We've managed our sunburn really well this year. The fruit has blushed really nicely and they've got really good colour."