Bay horticulture licks wounds after cyclones

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Papamoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said recent wild weather caused "quite a bit of damage" but he hoped things would get back on track this week. Photo/file

The impact of Cyclone Cook and former Cyclone Debbie could be felt for "years to come" by the Bay of Plenty's leading horticulture industries.

Avocado and kiwifruit growers are cleaning up after bearing the brunt of the two extreme weather events which tore trees from the ground and flooded orchards throughout the Bay this month.

NZ Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular said the industry had experienced its biggest ever season for both volume and value with 7 million trays of avocados grown, harvested, packed, marketed and exported. However Cyclone Cook, as well as the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, had impacted New Zealand avocado growers "significantly".

"Growers have reported fallen trees and broken branches as a result of the strong winds experienced from Cyclone Cook. Throughout the Bay of Plenty there are reports from avocado growers of isolated incidences of uprooted trees, trees with broken branches, significant amounts of fallen fruit and flooding," she said.

"The extent of the damage varies across the region, but has been made worse due to the significant amount of rain that had fallen in the three weeks prior to Cyclone Cook hitting."

Ms Scoular said although the full extent of Cyclone Cook was yet to be determined, long term effects from the heavy rain and wet soils might have made an impact on the trees for years to come.

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jan Scoular says damage from recent weather events could be felt for years to come. PHOTO/FILE
New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jan Scoular says damage from recent weather events could be felt for years to come. PHOTO/FILE

Papamoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thodesaid the weather caused "quite a bit of damage" with harvest fruit this year.

Mr Thode said the season had been well behind its usual harvesting timelines "but we are hoping this week a lot of fruit will come off".

"At the moment we are having quite a delayed harvest and with all of the rain our fruit sizes are massive at the moment, which is not necessarily a good thing for a market of certain sized fruit," he said.

"But overall there's very good quality of crop. It's just delayed."

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said there had been a "small handful" of flooded orchards in and around the Edgecumbe area after Cyclone Debbie but Cyclone Cook had not made much of an impact.

"The small number of orchards which have had their fruit touched by floodwaters or dropped by wind will not be harvested due to food safety reasons. However, it is hoped the majority of fruit on affected orchards will be able to be harvested."

Ms Johnson said it would be some time before the extent of long term damage to kiwifruit plants from flooding in this area would be known.

"Supporting affected kiwifruit growers has been a priority across the whole industry since the arrival of Cyclone Debbie."

Industry representatives were in contact with growers in order to reduce the risk of kiwifruit vine death due to deposits of silt from river water and compaction of soil from heavy vehicles. Grower assistance has also been on offer, she said.

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