Taranaki vegetable growers look to recover after worst season in two decades

Home grown vegetables have rotted in the ground

Home grown vegetables have rotted in the ground

Slavko Nikolovski's​ back yard garden should be brimming with ripe capsicums, verdant sweetcorn and dark juicy grapes.

Instead the cold, windy summer temperatures, and heavy rains from two cyclone events, have turned his prized vegetable plot into a mass of rotted fruit and leaves.

"I have bought more vegetables this year than ever before, it's the rain and the wind, it has destroyed everything," the retired Macedonian-born engineer said.

The cold temperatures and heavy rain have proved difficult vegetable growing conditions for retired New Plymouth ...

The cold temperatures and heavy rain have proved difficult vegetable growing conditions for retired New Plymouth engineer, and home gardener, Slavko Nikolovski, 82.

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Nikolovski normally grew more vegetables than he could eat, and sold or gave away the surplus from a small shed at the front of his Morley Street, New Plymouth, house.

This year he has had barely enough chillies and capsicums to spare, he said.

"Everything's has got disease.

"It's been a terrible season, horrible."

Nikolovski's not the only one feeling the pinch as vegetable suppliers struggle to meet demand from decreased crops.

Growers, suppliers and retailers are struggling to meet consumer demand for popular vegetable lines.

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​Taranaki vegetable supplier Franko Galley said the recent wet weather and cold summer had produced shortages for vegetables in the region, and throughout the country.

Among the worst hit crops were broccoli, cauliflower and pumpkin.

"I've been told by growers its the worst they've seen in 25 years," he said.

"Yields were down because of the wet weather and cold summer and it has pushed up prices.

"​There was not much margin on many vegetables available in the supermarkets.

"We're paying higher prices because many vegetables are practically unavailable."

The adverse weather had affected not only quantities but also quality, he said.

"Many crops had rotted from the heavy rainfalls, and we need more sunlight."

New Plymouth vegetable retail manager Arvinder Singh said the supply shortage was made worse by many of the main growing regions in the country being affected by the poor weather conditions at the same time.

Singh said it was the worst season in the past decade.

"All the growing regions have been wiped out from Pukekohe, through to Gisborne and down to Levin where we source most of our vegetables from," he said.

"Normally we might get one or two regions affected and we are able to source product from elsewhere but not this year.

"You just have to get the product from where you can."

Most growers plant in a three month cycle, which would cause shortages in the short term if the weather did not improve, he said.

Retail prices had jumped on average $1.50 per plant, with cauliflower being sold for $5-$6 each, and broccoli $2.50-$3.50, he said.

Lettuces could be in short supply unless growers can lift the crop before rot set in.

"I've never seen prices go up as much in a short time but consumers were still buying vegetables at higher prices."

If the price soared higher the householder would look replace the more pricey lines with less expensive vegetables such as carrots, and potatoes, he said.

A Taranaki vegetable grower, who did not want to be named, said all crops were late due to the weather.

"It's been extremely cold and wet summer and it has affected many of the brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli," he said.

"It hasn't been hot enough for the crops to ripen, the quality's down and you are getting pumpkins, for example, with softer skins."

 - Taranaki Daily News


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