Drought could cause vege shortage or hit crop quality in Bay

By Sonya Bateson

Bay people could face paying more for vegetables if the drought continues.

The dry conditions could cause a vegetable shortage in coming months, or the quality and size of crops could be affected, an industry expert warns.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the drought was not affecting prices at the moment but could have a flow-on effect later in the season.

"It hasn't had a big impact yet, but we're worried going forward in terms of planting crops for production later in the year.

"If this carries on for another two or three months, we will be looking at an increase. It's all about supply and demand. Growers certainly don't make more money if supply is low and prices are high; the prices are high because growers don't have anything to sell."

It was likely the size and quality of vegetables would be affected, so while customers weren't paying more, the growers would be earning less, he said.

Mr Silcock said green vegetables would be at risk if there was no rain soon and kumara in Northland were already being affected.

The Fresh Market Gate Pa owner, David Stewart, said his best advice for customers was to keep an eye on the drought because there were no certainties about what prices would do in the coming months.

Potatoes could be affected.

"The spuds sit in the dry ground and they need moisture. It will be interesting when they start digging in April and May, the winter might be a difficult one for spuds."

Another vegetable that could be affected was the onion, Mr Stewart said.

"There's not a lot of big onions because there hasn't been enough moisture there for them to grow.

"That's going to be a repercussion of the hot weather. Same with lettuces in Horowhenua, they just can't get enough water to make them grow at the moment."

Mr Stewart said the vegetables would be fine if rain were to come in the next few weeks.

"With produce, there's always something expensive and something cheap. If the rain predicted for next week comes, there won't be any problems. We need two to four weeks of reasonable weather, which will still give ample time to get growth for winter."

Nosh Food Market owner Jamie Blennerhassett said it was anyone's guess as to whether local customers would be facing a price increase.

"We're experiencing difficulties getting spring onions, leeks, all types of crops, and they can't charge much for the quality.



"The drought is definitely affecting size, but this doesn't always flow through to the consumer. Farmers might just get paid less ... The growers might have just as much fruit but smaller in size."


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