15 Aug 2009

Tomato growers struggling despite higher prices

10:06 pm on 15 August 2009

Tomato growers are struggling with some of the lowest prices in a decade, despite a 40% increase in prices for the product over the past year.

The Food Price Index published by Statistics New Zealand on Thursday showed the price of tomatoes had risen 42.1% in the year to July.

Horticulture New Zealand director and Auckland tomato grower Tony Ivicevich says last year growers were selling the fruit far below the cost of production. Returns were higher month-to-month 10 years ago, he says.

He puts this down to a flood of Australian imports on the market followed by the discovery of the psyllid insect pest which stopped tomatoes from being exported and sold in Australia.

Mr Ivicevich says although growers have been allowed to resume tomato exports to Australia, the import risk assessment is yet to be approved there, so growers are still having to meet the costs of expensive temporary measures to get the fruit exported.

He fears many growers will go out of business.