THIS year's stonefruit season is promising to be one of the best for Western Australians.
According to Mullalyup grower and WA Fruit Growers' Association Summer Fruit Council chairman Peter Gubler, the state's unusually cold, wet spring weather has contributed to a smaller volume crop, which should mean larger fruit of better quality.
The latest 2005-06 stone fruit crop estimates show that compared with a typical production year plum volumes would be about 45pc, apricots 75pc, peaches 80-90pc and nectarines 90-100pc.
"This means consumers will benefit from larger, more tasty fruit, with some growers suggesting shoppers can look forward to enjoying WA-grown stone fruit that is tastier and juicier than it's been for years," Mr Gubler said.
"Last season there was an oversupply of small size fruit on the domestic market due to a loss of some export markets.
"But that is not the case this year, so consumers can anticipate top quality eating at reasonable prices, especially by around Christmas when peaches and apricots peak in terms of quantity and quality and by the end of January when plums do the same."
Responding to consumer concerns, the Summer Fruit Council organised several on-farm field days earlier this year where growers were given a clear message on domestic markets and their requirements for preferred varieties, fruit size and flavour.
"As a result, many WA growers consolidated their varietal mix, removing unwanted or less fashionable varieties and thinning hard to reduce crop volumes, ultimately resulting in what should be a better eating product for consumers," Mr Gubler said.
When selecting stone fruit, shoppers should look for ripeness by selecting fruit that is yellow or yellowing (not green) at the pointy end.
"And, if unfortunate enough to have a bad eating experience, they should immediately return the fruit to the shop, requesting their money back or replacement," Mr Gubler said.