Hail and wet weather take a toll on vegetables

GERARD HUTCHING
Last updated 08:54 14/09/2017

Hail-damaged lettuce in Pukekohe following storms this week.

Levin grower John Clarke of Woodhaven Gardens.

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Hail in Pukekohe and cold, wet weather throughout the country have hit vegetable crops but it is too soon to say how much more consumers might have to pay for potatoes, lettuce and cauliflowers this spring.

Pukekohe grower Bharat Bhana said the hailstorms which came through the region in the last few days had done more damage than wet weather, but in other parts of the country a wet spring has come on top of a soggy winter.

"Onions are smashed, lettuce have got bullet holes in them, looks like a flock of chickens has gone through," Bhana said.

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Potato growers who usually harvest 15 to 18 tonnes per hectare would probably only dig up 8 tonnes per ha when they came to maturity in Late October-early November.

"Lettuce, onions, potatoes - the hail's taken a toll on them, bruised up all the leaves and some of those crops won't recover. You'll get a lettuce but it will be a small one, which might last only three days compared to a week. In some cases we're down to 40 per cent of total production," Bhana said.

He predicted vegetable costs would rise in stores because, even though they had smaller crops, they still had to put the same work into growing them.  

LeaderBrand national sales manager Bevan Roach said it was not all "doom and gloom".

"We're coming out of a really wet period so anything that comes on top of it just adds to it. But we are into spring and in between the rain it's warm so you're not getting cold on top of cold."

"We're hopeful we'll be able to catch up on some aspects and fill in some of the gaps that have been created. We're doing everything we can to minimise the effect on consumers."

He said fresh season sweet corn was planted and was looking good.

"You can be behind at this time of year but you can catch up," Roach said.

His view was supported by Levin grower John Clarke who said his yields were down about 20-30 per cent on what was normal for this time of year.

"Whether there will be higher prices, you never know. It depends because as it gets warmer the growing time for crops decreases. In the middle of winter a lettuce takes 18 weeks to grow, whereas in the middle of summer it's a 6-week crop. So at the moment we don't really know how big the hole is going to be."

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said consumers needed to understand that lower than normal supplies impacted on availability and cost.

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"We find that when people get to the shops and see higher than expected prices for vegetables, they don't necessarily understand why that is. Our growers use very sophisticated farming techniques to manage as many environmental factors as they can, but something like hail at the wrong time or rainfall of a metre more than previous years cannot always be mitigated."

- Stuff

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