Shock­ing sea­son for straw­ber­ries

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

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.’

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