27 February 2023
Harvest uncertainty as second extreme weather impact hits island.
GROWERS in the north of New Zealand are being offered help and support in the wake of a second cyclone to hit the country in a month.
In January, Cylone Hale caused widespread flooding and slips in northern and eastern parts of the country, particularly in the Coromandel and Gisborne areas, and earlier this month Cyclone Gabrielle devastated the North Island of New Zealand and affected parts of Vanuatu and Australia.
Four commercial growers are localted in Hawke's Bay and will not know the extent of the damage to their crops until they harvest about a month from now, according to Potatoes NZ spokesperson Gemma Carroll. She said there was likely to be less marketable yield than usual as a result of the extreme weather and rainfall in the North Island.
Crops could be affected by waterlogging, could rot in the ground or later in storage, and they might also be more susceptible to pests and disease, if soil has been washed away and exposed them to the elements.
In a recent announcement to its members, Potatoes NZ said: "February has continued to hit our country and our industry with the havoc of another cyclone - a cyclone unlike any we've experienced before," adding: "Friends, families/whānau and colleagues pick up the pieces in many areas of the north island."
Advice on harvesting or salvaging contaminated crops is being offered by New Zealand Food Safety (MPI) and
Horticulture NZ, while the Rural Support Trust is offering growers access to wellbeing and social support, as well as business and financial advice, and care packages.
Around half of New Zealand's potatoes were produced in Canterbury and Westland, with Manawatu and Auckland together growing another quarter of the total crop, according to Potatoes NZ's 2022 report. The country grew 456,072 tonnes of potatoes on 8951 hectares, with an average yield of 51 tonnes per hectare.