17 Mar 2015

Growers assess cyclone damage

2:58 pm on 17 March 2015

Growers and harvesters in the Gisborne region are spending the day assessing what damage Cyclone Pam has caused to crops and paddocks.

70km sign bent over from Pam

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The cyclone brought with it heavy seas, high winds and significant rain for many parts of the region, but especially to Tologa Bay and the coastal communities north of Gisborne.

Gisborne Produce Growers Association chair Ron Prebble said growers and contractors were in the midst of harvesting tomatoes, sweet corn and squash but stopped as the cyclone arrived.

He said it was too early to tell the scale of the damage, but he was expecting crops up the coast from Gisborne to be hit the hardest.

"On the Gisborne Flats the rainfall hasn't been overly excessive, it's probably been around about 70 to 80mls, we were very, very dry before the ex-cyclone hit so it was actually very welcome rain.

"And again talking about the Gisborne flats I don't think it's had too much of an impact on the squash crops but it has blown the sweet corn crops, particularly the ones nearer the coast it's blown them over almost flat on the ground.

"If the crops like sweet corn aren't blown down to badly the modern harvesting machinery has the ability to be able to pick it up and harvest the cobs from the plant, provided the ground conditions aren't too wet - that's the limiting factor, if the ground conditions are too wet and the harvester sinks in the mud then you have a problem."

Mr Prebble expected harvesting would be underway again in two days.

He said the cyclone was bad for grape growers, brilliant for pastoral farmers and a mixed bag for croppers.

Gisborne Wine Growers President Alan Knight said he was spending the day driving around vineyards, assessing the level of damage to grapes.

He said growers around the region were nervous to get their fruit of the vines as soon as possible.

Mr Knight said most vine yards received around about 70 millimetres of rain, which was not ideal at this stage in the grape's growth.

"I've seen splitting in the vineyards I manage, initially I've seen it in the Sauvignon blanc which tend to do that any way when you get sort of above 30 to 40mls this time of year, they do split.

"That splitting should be fine, there's no problems, they're pretty much ready to harvest ... So the wine company will come in and pick those before that splitting has a chance to have any detrimental affect to the fruit and the wine," he said.

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