19 Oct 2022

Wet weather crop delays costing arable farmers time and money

2:34 pm on 19 October 2022
Potato fields in Pukekohe.

Potato fields in Pukekohe. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Olivia Allison

Wet weather in parts of the North Island over the past few months has been causing huge issues for farmers and growers, who have had to delay planting valuable crops.

A cold snap earlier this month froze the asparagus crop of one of the country's largest growers, Boyds Asparagus, in Waikato and strawberry crops on the outskirts of Hamilton were decimated by heavy frost.

In Horowhenua, heavy rain and flooding has also delayed potato planting, with growers forced to wait until their fields dry out before planting new crops.

And the variable weather is affecting arable crops too, with farmers also having to delay planting their maize and fodder crops.

Federated Farmers arable spokesperson Colin Hurst said it had been a run of bad luck for arable farmers in the North Island.

"Certainly in Hawke's Bay and the Heretaunga Plains, just talking to the guys up there, they've had three times their normal rainfall in September, you know, probably up to 180mm so there's been crops drowned out and a lot of the plantings for the process crops have been delayed.

"The thing about those crops, is they need progressive planting because they need to have a staggered harvest.

"I was just talking to some of my colleagues out there, they grow process pea crops and then they follow with process beans, so the thing about that is, they're potentially going to miss that window to get crops."

The rain had also pushed pause on crop planting in Wairarapa and Manawatū, Hurst said.

He said the delays would cost arable farmers time and money.

"The factories that take those process crops, they need a staggered harvest.

"So if they missed the planting, then they potentially lose those crops.

"But the grain crops, they obviously can go in later, but that normally follows through with a reduced yield, and the maize crops, they may have to change to a later hybrid variety, so more of a shorter season variety, so there is options, but normally means a reduced yield."

The skyrocketing cost of diesel was only adding to farmers' woes, Hurst said.

The price of diesel is now more expensive than petrol in parts of the country - and has been identified as one of the main drivers of the annual inflation rate of 7.2 percent released yesterday.

Hurst said despite higher commodity prices, lower yields and rising diesel costs were dampening farmers' spirits.

"Look at the price of diesel, it's just shot up above the price of petrol, I've never seen that before.

"The price of fertiliser has never been so expensive and then we've got the potential reduced yield, so it's a real cost-price squeeze going on there.

"It just makes it really difficult, but that's what farmers and growers have dealt with all their lives, so it's just another factor to deal with.

"You've just got to try and make the best of these situations and hopefully the opportunities will pop up, certainty the market returns have never been better, but that counters the cost of everything."

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