Bay growers count the cost

By Elaine Fisher

A week of strong winds and weeks of heavy rain have taken their toll on Bay of Plenty avocado growers with the industry expecting this season's export crop to be down by 300,000 trays.
Among those counting the costs is long-time grower and industry leader Hugh Moore of Katikati .
"We've had seven big, 30-year-old avocado trees blown over and a lot of fruit on the ground from other trees," he said.
It wasn't just the relentless strong winds which blew through the district since September 17 which were to blame.
"It's the wind turbulence and the fact the ground is absolutely saturated, making trees less stable," Mr Moore said.
"And I had also removed some shelter, which didn't help,"
His Kauri Pak packhouse had begun harvesting and packing fruit for export just before the prolonged storm hit and, when it did, Mr Moore said picking gangs on hydraladdas had to stop work.
One positive was that flowers for the next season's crop were still immature and, with any luck, won't be affected by wind damage.
A grower at Pahoia, who doesn't want to be identified, estimates that he and his wife have lost about $30,000 in export earnings from their 2ha 169-tree orchard.
"We're down to 158 trees now and it looks like up to half our crop is on the ground and no good," said the grower, who last year harvested 160 bins of fruit from the orchard.
This will be the fifth season in seven years the couple have received little or no income from their land.
Fruit and broken branches were strewn across the ground.
One big tree which fell over had been cut up for firewood and the large poles in a section of high artificial shelter had snapped, crashing into avocado trees.


"It looks like a mini tornado was responsible for that damage," said the owner, who wouldn't venture into the orchard during high winds because of the danger of being hit by falling branches or trees.
Apata national avocado manager Therese Temple said the post-harvest company would move quickly to harvest what fruit was left in the orchard but the fruit on the ground was good only for processing for oil. "It's so sad to see an excellent orchard like this, which had set a top quality crop, hit this way," she said.
"This fruit was almost ready for harvest."
The problems began with high winds on September 17 but the storm of September 21 was worse. "Before that Tuesday we had only a few growers with serious damage and were looking at a crop which should have given an 84 per cent export pack-out Because of wind damage, that could now be down to 50 or 60 per cent. There will be a smaller crop which could keep prices high, which may be some compensation for growers."
Although Bay of Plenty growers were hard hit, the same storm system caused little damage in Northland with the avocado harvest continuing unimpeded, a bonus for growers there who had been hard hit by wind in the past.
Zespri and Kiwifruit Growers have received no reports of widespread serious wind damage to kiwifruit orchards, with the vines only just beginning to produce new shoots when the storms hit.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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