Cost of fruits, vegetables expected to rise further post-cyclone

Wed, Mar 1

The soaring cost of fruit and vegetables is expected to rise further as the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle becomes clearer.

Leafy greens, packaged salads and kumara are among the produce shortages seen on supermarket shelves.

Now, supermarket giant Countdown is looking at importing more fresh produce to make up for the shortages, including looking overseas for the likes of fresh raspberries.

"Just be aware that there are some significant impacts to our customers. We are doing everything in our power to get product to them," Countdown's Pieter de Wet told 1News.

De Wet said Countdown is now working with the Government "to see what potential import opportunities there are so we can still try and get product to our consumers".

It comes as Prime Minister Chris Hipkins today visited Hawke's Bay, which was severely impacted by the cyclone.

The region produces most of the country's apples, pears and squashes. It's unknown how many have been damaged.

"Obviously, there's clearly quite a lot that is completely written off. Some are still being assessed as to whether they can be harvested and of course, it may be more expensive to harvest what's left," Hipkins said.

Meanwhile, Gisborne horticulture business LeaderBrand is up and running again after the region was left without power and water during the floods.

"We've had products washed away, we've had products that we haven't been able to harvest because they're in too poor condition," LeaderBrand's Richard Burke said.

Water continues to be a challenge, too, with the company having to truck in their own supply.

"We'll be a long way off 100% for a while," he said.

An apple tree destroyed by Cyclone Gabrielle.

"People will be going, 'Oh, what's the impact on things like broccoli and lettuce and those things?' My message is it will come and go."

The price of fruits and vegetables is already sky high, having risen 16% in the year to January and further increases are likely.

"I think there will be a short-term negative impact where we will see prices rise," de Wet said.

Westpac agricultural economist Nathan Penny said there will be fewer produce available "as we would normally see, and that's going to lead to higher prices".

Hipkins said he felt for the growers who "put their heart and soul into their annual growing".

"To have this happen when this happened, how it happened, and see the effect it's had on them, that's something I think all New Zealanders should acknowledge," he said.

Increased transport costs and the ongoing impact of Auckland's floods have also had an impact.

Vegetable prices may rebound in the middle of this year but for some industries it's expected to take much longer.

Penny said while the impact on vegetables is expected to be "relatively short-tern", fruits such as apples may be harder to come by.

"Unfortunately for apples, there have been some trees that have been damaged and maybe even destroyed, so that means they need to be replanted and apple trees can take up to five or six years to be fully productive."


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