Primary Industries

Winter conditions cause struggle for vege growers

New Zealand vegetable growers are struggling financially after a disastrous winter.

Warmer than usual temperatures have resulted in an oversupply of crops, lack of demand and low prices.

Pukekohe producer Bharat Bhana grows a wide range of brassicas, greens and other vegetables.

He said vegetables had matured more quickly which had caused a glut, people's eating habits changed with lower demand for roasts and comfort food, and there was higher than normal crop wastage.

Different varieties of brassicas were grown in winter compared with summer and if cold temperature plants didn't get frosts, they didn't perform, he said.

"Some of them go hay-wire ... some of them get furry, different things happen for different plants."

Prices should pick up over the next few months, but if they didn't, more high quality land would end up being sold for housing.

For Woodhaven Gardens owner John Clarke, who had been growing vegetables near Levin for 40, years, this winter had been one of the worst.

Coping with high rainfall in the past two months, which made planting challenging, was nothing compared with coping with poor demand and low prices, Clarke said.

It had meant having a friendly talk to the bank manager.

"It's all you can do with the type of season we've had. I for one, my bottom line result is not good," he said.

"You just got to be an eternal optimist in this business, otherwise you wouldn't be here."

He didn't know why demand was so low this winter but thought people were tightening their belts and vegetables were getting crossed off the shopping list.

Meanwhile, the head of Horticulture New Zealand, Mike Chapman, said New Zealanders needed to understand that paying a fair price for fresh vegetables would sustain both growers and consumers.

"It's important enough money is paid back to our vegetable growers, otherwise they will not be able to continue to grow vegetables," he said.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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