Shocking season for strawberries
AS Kiwi holiday makers enjoy summer fruits and berries, North Island strawberry growers are counting the cost of one of the most difficult seasons in years.
Heavy rain and humid weather throughout December played havoc with crops, affecting the fruit’s quality and quantity.
Waikato grower Gary McMahon from The Strawberry Farm just out of Hamilton described the season as ‘‘shocking’’.
‘‘I think it’s the wet and the humidity has been the biggest challenge we have had to face. The horrendous rain we have been getting has made it very difficult for us.’’
McMahon said it had been extremely frustrating.
‘‘We try our best and Christmas is the hardest time of the year for us – I take a lot of orders – and it makes it very difficult for me to give my best quality strawberries when the strawberries aren’t really doing their thing.’’
The weather also resulted in shortages in the week before Christmas.
The challenges come during peak demand for berries in supermarkets. Countdown general manager of corporate affairs and sustainability, Kiri Hannifin, said pavlova with fresh berries continued to be an all-time Christmas favourite. ‘‘In fact, in the couple of weeks before Christmas, strawberries become the number one product sold in our supermarkets – one of the few times of the year that bananas are not the most popular grocery item.’’
Despite the bad start, McMahon feels more upbeat about the remainder of the season with about 40 per cent of his crop still to be picked.
Another grower, Kanes Strawberries of Cambridge posted on its Facebook page on December 28 that its season was ‘‘quickly coming to an end due to previous badweather’’.
Whenuapai grower and Auckland chairman of Strawberry Growers NZ, Anthony Rakich said much of the rain came during the ‘flush’ when the crop was about to be harvested.
‘ The horrendous rain we have been getting has made it very difficult for us.’