Rainfall sets growers up for bumper yield

No longer bordering on drought conditions

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
Strawberry crops
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
BERRY GOOD: Strawberry crops have coped well with recent rain, leading to some fine specimens shown by Kate McMahon of The Strawberry Farm in Tamahere.

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Berries will remain a staple on Waikato Christmas tables this year as berry producers celebrate the weather pendulum swinging from near drought to rain at just the right time.

Concern that heavy rain this week could damage crops has proved unfounded with many producers saying that conditions ten days ago were bordering on a drought.

Olde Berry Farm manager Peter Molloy said the long range forecast heading towards Christmas week was for warm dry weather which would complement his robust berry crops.

"We were bordering on drought conditions [prior to the rain] and now we are not - so that's put us in a good position," he said.

However, rain this week has put a dampener on profits at the Morrinsville Rd berry farm.

"We are down by 50 per cent this week but that's what this business is like," he said. "It is very weather-dependent and so we have to take the bad with the good - but we are looking forward to a good Christmas," he said.

Rain has also been problematic at The Strawberry Farm in Tamahere where owner Gary McMahon said prices for strawberries were dropping in favour of consumers.

"The rain has hindered us this week and not helped our cause, but it is just typical of this time of year - and it was needed," Mr McMahon said.

Despite the bad spell of weather Mr McMahon said he was impressed with the harvest aimed at the Christmas market.

"I'm impressed with the fruit off my vines. Sometimes we do find some suffering rain damage but overall the crops are holding up well given the amount of rain we have had."

Blueberry Country general manager Warrick Macdonald said the only negative impact of recent wet weather was fewer people heading out to take advantage of pick-your-own berries.

"We had some good dry weather up until Sunday so the quality of blueberries was very good," he said. "Sometimes with rain you can get some splitting but the varieties now are quite hardy. It actually helps the crops to size up a bit." He expected a bumper blueberry crop in time for Christmas.

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- Waikato Times

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