New Zealanders will have to prepare to spend a little extra at the grocery store as drought pushes up the price of fruits and vegetables, warns Horticulture NZ.
"No water means plants die and as a result, fresh fruit and vegetables are unavailable and prices go up because demand is higher than supply," said Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.
Chapman said the dry conditions had put growers under pressure to the point where some have to make decisions about which crops they would be able to plant and harvest.
New Zealanders have already faced steep increases this year, with the Consumer Price Index data from December showing a 4.5 per cent lift in fruit and vegetable prices from last year.
Pumpkin prices continued to increase, up 231 per cent versus the same month a year earlier, to its highest ever level. Fruit prices rose 4.8 per cent, with avocado prices up 88 per cent versus the same month a year earlier. The average price for a 200g avocado was $2.31 in December 2017, compared with $1.23 in December 2016.
Chapman said there was not enough being done to ensure the horticulture industry was not left so vulnerable to changing weather conditions.
"Relying on water to fall from the sky simply isn't enough," he said.
"We should be more proactive in capturing and storing that water to ensure sustainability of supply during times of drought."
"The best way to ensure adequate water supply to irrigate fruit and vegetable plants is to store water in dams. Dams also benefit streams and rivers by reducing flood risk and keeping flows up during dry periods, which protects aquatic life."
Chapman directed blame at what he calls "inconsistent policies across central and local government" when it came to water, land use, climate change and community needs.
"On the one hand the government wants a Zero Carbon Act and to plant one billion more trees, but on the other hand, local authorities are increasingly putting pressure on water supplies, limiting water access for irrigation to grow food. There needs to be a wider national approach to these issues and support and recognition for regions that are addressing them as communities."
Chapman said Horticulture NZ supported the proposed development of Waimea Dam in the Tasman District.
"The benefits of the dam include water for food security and primary production, security of water supply for urban water users, improved ecosystem health of the Waimea River, recreational benefits, regional economy benefits, business development and expansion, and more jobs."
Horticulture NZ is ardent in its support of the proposed $82.5 million dam, however, the project has also been met with opposition.
During the election campaign, Green Party Nelson candidate Matt Lawrey questioned the development of the dam on account of it potentially leading to more unsustainable farming, which could lead to increased levels of nitrate leeching into drinking water.
The public submission period sparked strong debate about the project, with a total of 1,515 arguments for and against the construction project sent in by the closing date of November 26, 2016.
Final public deliberations on the project have been scheduled for early February.