Kiwifruit marketer Zespri estimates around 70 per cent of the production area in Hawke’s Bay and 25 per cent in Gisborne has been moderately to severely damaged by the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson in an update to growers said Hawke’s Bay was responsible for around 1.5 per cent of total kiwifruit industry production and Gisborne, for 4 per cent.
Mathieson said it was too early to understand the full impact of the cyclone.
There was also some localised damage in other regions such as the Bay of Plenty, Northland and Coromandel, he said.
Tauranga-based Zespri, which is entitled by law to export all New Zealand kiwifruit except to Australia, was working with grower organisation NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) to provide support to growers.
NZKGI would lead the industry’s talks with the Government on financial support for affected growers.
“The offers we’ve seen of machinery, financial and people support for those affected growers ... have been incredible - please continue to feed these through to both Zespri and NZKGI so we can co-ordinate and ensure this support gets to those most in need,” Mathieson said.
Fruit that has had direct contact with floodwater would not be harvested.
“We are also working to understand options to maintain food safety in respect of fruit from affected orchards which has not been directly in contact with floodwaters.”
The 2023 harvest had just begun when Cyclone Gabrielle hit.
Mathieson said affected growers he and other Zespri leaders, including chair Bruce Cameron, had met this week were showing “incredible strength and resilience, but it’s clear there’s a lot of hard work ahead to recover”.
“Cyclone Gabrielle is yet another challenge for our industry in 2023 and it’s even more important now that we continue to support each other.”
Fruit quality issues have challenged Zespri and the industry in the past year, due to a combination of weather events, softer fruit, and a severe labour shortage at all levels of the sector.
The $2 billion-plus export industry has introduced an action plan to counter the problems and until the latest cyclone, was confident issues had eased.
Growers would get more information later this week, which would include the latest forecast estimates of orchard returns for the season, Mathieson said.