Tuesday, 27 February 2024 11:55

Gisborne growers battling rain

Written by  Peter Burke
Leaderbrand chief executive, Richard Burke says excessive rain has impacted planting. Leaderbrand chief executive, Richard Burke says excessive rain has impacted planting.

Constant rain over the past year has made it extremely hard for Gisborne's major vegetable grower Leaderbrand.

According to its chief executive, Richard Burke, the Tairawhiti region has had an incredible 2000mm of rain since February last year and this has had a major effect on their planting programme, ground conditions and crop yields. He says the weather, including Cyclone Gabrielle, has created some changes and challenges for his company.

"This has made supply quite lumpy," Burke told Rural News.

"Sometimes supply has been tight and sometimes it's been plentiful and, in the end, that's probably given consumers more value.

"This is because they have been able to capitalise when there is plenty of product around. So, as of today we have got plenty of challenges ahead of us," he says.

Burke says the immediate issue they face is not major infrastructure such as roads, rather it is drainage to dry sodden paddocks. He says their greatest challenge is to clear the drains and get them working. With the heavy clay soils, the rain just sits on them, the soil compacts and gets damaged.

"The result is that it impacts on our planting programmes.

"What is needed is a long-term approach to drainage in the region," he says.

Burke says in recent years there has been big investment in environmental issues such as reducing carbon emissions, but less money invested in repairing vital infrastructure such as drains - equally important in terms of crop production.

He says with this delay in maintenance of drains, a lot of catch-up work is required to get operating properly to cope, not so much with a cyclone, but the ordinary rain events that the region is subjected to.

"For example, we didn't get any land levelling drainage work done last summer because it was so wet, and you couldn't work the land. It's only really dried out this month and we are busy cleaning out our drains, and the council ones, because there is a chance that they won't get around to it. We are also doing a lot of land levelling to set ourselves up for this winter," he says.

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