15 Mar 2018

Kumara worries: Growers battle wet weather

11:08 am on 15 March 2018

Northland kumara growers are battling with an extremely wet summer and say there could soon be crop losses if it doesn't dry up.

Kumara

Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Last season was also difficult, with wet weather almost halving crop yields and sending prices soaring to about $9 a kilo in December.

Almost all of New Zealand's kumara are grown in Northland, and Kaipara Kumara manager Anthony Blundell said some growers believe this is the wettest summer in more than 20 years.

Blundell said the rain has arrived a lot earlier than last year, and so far only about 15% of the crop is harvested.

"We've got a long couple of months coming up," he said.

"We're hoping it doesn't get too much wetter because it's going to make harvest conditions very bad ... which will effect the quality and keeping ability of the kumara."

He said the region needs to stay relatively dry for the next couple months to get the rest of the crop out.

"Some farmers now are ploughing them (kumara) on top and picking them up by hand ... to be this early in the season and doing that is quite a concern."

Mr Blundell said the industry is trying to harvest as much of the crop as possible in order to prevent price surges.

"We don't want to be anywhere near the pricing that we were last year... however, it is all around supply and demand - it's really about how much supply we get out at the end of the day."

He said all eyes are on what the weather will do next.

"If we get too much rain we simply won't be able to harvest ... paddocks will be written off that are badly affected.

"That's the big thing right now, if it doesn't get too much wetter it gives us a shot at getting the crop out of the ground."

He said by the end of April the industry will have a clearer idea of crop yields.