14 Nov 2022

Kiwifruit growers fear 'zero income' next year after severe frost

1:50 pm on 14 November 2022
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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Some Waikato kiwifruit growers will have no income next year and others will have crops that will not cover the cost of production, following a heavy frost in October.

Waikato is a smaller growing region with 564 hectares of fruit; an additional 100 hectares was planted this winter.

A grower with 22 hectares, Richard Glen, said it had taken until now to get his head around the full impact of the October frost event.

Glen said it was the worst frost he had seen in his 40 years of growing.

"Horticulture's not for the faint-hearted sometimes, but it took us a while, with mental health and things like that, it took us about four weeks to get our heads around it.

"It's sort of like hail that only ever seems to get worse."

Glen said he mapped out the potential crop losses from the frost, initially expecting the event had destroyed 50 percent of his block of crops.

"But in the end, we got down to losing 70 percent of blocks that we thought we had a 50 percent crop on.

"I know people that have lost everything and that's pretty devastating."

He said kiwifruit growers would this year be getting an income from the fruit they're selling at the moment, but come next winter, some may not have any income coming in due to the frost event.

Glen said those growers would still have operating costs to cover.

"From June onwards, those growers will have zero income until the following April," he said.

In Te Puke, Trevelyan's Pack and Cool managing director James Trevelyan said a warm and wet winter had affected their crop quality.

"We've got, a lack of flowers and we're pointing to the winter that we've had and maybe a drop in temperature at a crucial time," he said.

"I really am starting to look at the winters we're having and it's probably the first time I've really been involved in the weather events and wondered if it was nature dropping a weather event with global warming at our feet.

Trevelyan said they tried to prepare for the bad weather the best they could, but the vines had been damaged.

He said because of the weather the quality of the fruit was lower, so he expected to face heavy financial losses.

"At one of our orchards the profits will be basically halved," he said.

"We are in horticulture, so we've just got to suck it up and that's the way it rolls, but then it starts to affect everything.

"If I take my growing hat off and put the post-harvest hat on, we've been building infrastructure because crop volumes are expected to increase, but if those volumes don't come, it's tough on cash flow and it's tough on staff."

Trevelayn said the changing climate had pushed his company and other growers to look at how they could better prepare for heavy rain events.

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