23 Apr 2014

Wet April leaves croppers in a hole

4:30 pm on 23 April 2014

Relentless rainfall in Canterbury is playing havoc with the harvest of the arable industry's most valuable crops and farmers there say its getting worse by the day.

Farmers say it has rained everyday since late March and that has left growers unable to get mature and highly valuable seed crops out of the ground. Nor have they been able get new crops in.

High value crops such as linseed have been worst affected.

High value crops such as linseed have been worst affected. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Federated Farmers grain and seed chairperson Ian Mackenzie says it's just too wet.

"Combine harvesters haven't been able to get onto the fields to do the harvest and now we've had, over Easter, 100 millimetres, or 120 millimetres of rain, I think it was. So the ground conditions got very wet as well, so it's just turning into a bit of a difficult or nightmarish autumn."

Mr Mackenzie says cropping farmers in Canterbury can usually rely on a relatively dry and benign April - but this year has been the opposite and the situation is compounded by a change in recent times to new kinds of crops.

"So we have moved to where the market is and the market is for these specialist vegetable seed crops - they tend to be harvested later in the season. And so in a year like this there's still a lot value still sitting in the paddocks where we haven't been able to get the harvest in."

South Canterbury cropping farmer Jeremy Talbot says the impacts of non-stop rain are being widely felt and that some farmers near Waimate and Oamaru hadn't been able to do anything for six weeks.

Mr Talbot said it is high-value crops like carrot seed, radish seed and linseed that are the worst affected. Some crops are starting to sprout because they've been in the ground for too long, while some may have to be written off altogether.

He says before the daily rain began, the season's harvest was looking pretty good - but now that's all changed.

Another Ashburton cropper told Radio New Zealand the hole that cropping farmers are in at the moment is getting deeper and deeper every day.

Some relief for drought areas

Good rainfall in Waikato and South Auckland over the last week has successfully broken the extreme dry spell in most areas, but the situation remains fragile for some farmers.

Rainfall varied and in places some pastures are still brown and more rain is needed over coming weeks to ensure any recovery continues. The worst affected areas before the rain were in north and eastern Waikato.

Chairman of the Waikato Rural Support Trust Neil Bateup says while pastures are generally starting to green up, there isn't much feed value in it yet and this will take a few weeks. He says each farmer has been affected differently.

"There will be some low on supplements and cow condition and may struggle through the winter".

Mr Bateup says while the region may not have been officially declared in drought, it certainly was one.

"It was as bad as last year, the only difference farmers had more feed on hand and more was available and the ability to cope was better".

Mr Bateup says farmers have certainly learnt a lot from the last two droughts.