NZ fac­ing ku­mara cri­sis


Ku­mara farm­ers have hit their worst sup­ply short­age to date and grow­ers are blam­ing heavy rains and a cold spring.

Delta Pro­duce over­sees al­most half of New Zealand’s ku­mara grow­ers in North­land. Its gen­eral man­ager Lochy Wil­son said this was the worst ku­mara short­age he had seen in 19 years and farm­ers were strug­gling.

He said one grower spent $100,000 a week, for three weeks, to pay 120 staff to hand pick ku­mara out of the ground be­cause the har­vest­ing trac­tors could not be pulled through the mud. But rest as­sured, those will­ing to pay $8.18 per kilo for a sweet po­tato will be able to for the rest of the year.

Farm­ers’ crops pro­duced 40 per cent fewer veg­eta­bles this year com­pared to last year, but the prob­lem came well be­fore re­cent heavy rain­fall and flood­ing, Wil­son said.

A cold, dry spring hin­dered the growth of the root veg­etable that likes trop­i­cal con­di­tions. Then came the rain, mak­ing har­vest­ing oper­a­tions more dif­fi­cult and more ex­pen­sive.

‘‘It blew ev­ery one out of the wa­ter,’’ Wil­son said. He said all of the farms were lo­cated in Dar­gav­ille or Kaitaia, so when bad weather hit, all of the sup­ply was af­fected.

Fresh ku­mara could not be im­ported be­cause it is grown in soil and deemed a bio-se­cu­rity threat.


Ku­mara grow­ers are un­der the pump as their sup­ply can­not meet de­mand and wor­ries loom for next year’s sea­son.

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