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.