Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Growers battle for a bumper crop

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Papamoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said he expected to lose up to 15 per cent of his crop to Psa this season. He is spending on average $2000 to $3000 per hectare on management of the bacteria along with many other growers. Photo / John Borren
Papamoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said he expected to lose up to 15 per cent of his crop to Psa this season. He is spending on average $2000 to $3000 per hectare on management of the bacteria along with many other growers. Photo / John Borren

The kiwifruit harvest is still expected to yield a bumper crop this year despite an ongoing battle with Psa and bizarre weather conditions.

Kiwifruit Vine Health communications manager Lara Harrison said spring had been "a tough one" for kiwifruit growers managing Psa.

Figures showed in October 2015 the number of orchards with Psa in Tauranga, Te Puke and Katikati jumped to 2051 from 1978 in October 2014. Nationally the levels climbed to 2757 from 2595 over the same timeframes - a rise of 6 per cent.

The wet, cold 2015 winter resulted in levels of Psa "that the industry had not experienced for a couple of seasons," she said.

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However, KVH chairman Peter Ombler said although that would have an impact the national crop was going to be large and overall it was winning the fight against Psa. Generally speaking the colder, challenged sites were more affected than the warmer sites, he said.

Zespri supply chain general manager Blair Hamill said it received notification of a hail event that affected 70 orchards last month in Te Puna, Katikati, Kaimai and Oropi.

An independent assessor had visited the affected orchards to make a preliminary assessment of the damage, which was estimated to be about 170,000 trays, he said. Zespri's hail insurance policy had a total pool cover of $12 million. It was too early to forecast current volumes but it predicted similar New Zealand volumes of green and another strong increase in gold volumes, Mr Hamill said. In 2015 there was a record green crop of more than 80 million trays and gold volumes were about 33 million trays with SunGold volumes increasing nearly three times from 10.6 million trays from the season before to 27.5 million trays in 2015/16.

Photo/file
Photo/file

Papamoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said he expected to lose up to 15 per cent of his crop to Psa and was spending on average $2000 to $3000 per hectare on management. "It's a large budget and a fair chunk of my expenditure and a massive ongoing cost."

He likened Psa to a plague and said it would still take him about five years to recover financially from its initial devastation. His orchard encompassed about 15 hectares of green and kiwiberry. Te Puke kiwifruit grower Don Heslop said he had a small amount of Psa in his orchards but "we are going to produce one of the best crops ever".

Mr Heslop had about 10 hectares planted in three different varieties of kiwifruit and said although they had struggled with the weather, "we are in very good shape".

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chairman Doug Brown said the hot, dry El Nino summer had not eventuated. "I guess people are rolling their eyes a little bit and it shows you how difficult it is to predict the weather."

The recent rain had been great for helping to increase the size of kiwifruit but now more sunshine hours were needed, he said. "There is some concern now as we still want the sunshine hours to get the dry matter into the fruit. Effectively it decides how sweet the fruit is."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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