16 Mar 2015

Frantic harvest as growers brace for storm

10:00 am on 16 March 2015

As eastern parts of the North Island brace themselves for what Cyclone Pam may bring, vineyards in the Gisborne region have been frantically harvesting their grapes to get as much of their crop picked as they can before the storm arrives.

The agriculture sector could face serious damage if the weather is as severe as predicted.

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Photo: 123rf

Gisborne Winegrowers president Al Knight said the grape harvest was running 10 to 14 days behind this year and was only 30 to 40 percent completed.

He said that meant contractors and wineries had been working around the clock ahead of the storm.

"Growers have been pulling nets off ahead of the harvesters, with them right behind them, trying to get as much fruit off that's close to maturity as they can, so they can get some good quality fruit.

"But it's still anybody's guess what this is going to do and how much rain it's going to deliver," he said.

Kiwifruit growers in Bay of Plenty have also been anxiously awaiting the storm, with the harvest about to start and some early picking already underway.

There is a bumper crop on the vines this year, and gales and heavy rain are the last thing the growers want right now.

Kiwifruit growers chair Neil Trebilco said some growers who were ready to pick would be holding off until conditions had settled down again.

"You can't pick when the wind and rain is coming and there are some preparations that have to be done in advance of harvest, so some growers will delay because of that," he said.

"Growers will be watching it very nervously."

Mr Treblico said growers had spent a lot of money and a lot of time and effort preparing the fruit on their vines, but the storm could come through and damage everything.

"The fruit is just sitting on the vines there, and if you have a lot of wind, one fruit rubs against another and causes damage, or fruit can rub against the leaves or even the vines, so growers will definitely be worried about the storm."