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Great Autumn weather reflects superb winter crops and helps explain low May and June returns for tomato growers
Crystal ball gazing returns impossible
On recent visits to growers, in the Auckland region, greenhouse crops were looking superb. I have not seen such amazing produce, in size and quality in June before. Factors such as good ambient temperatures and above average light levels, in April and May, has been beneficial, and is why crops are in such fantastic condition. There were several greenhouses still harvesting, that had not been in production June 2021.
May and June of 2021, the price was above average for tomatoes – simply due to a lack of supply. In June, this year prices were woeful. The disruption to planting plans over the last two to three years, due to covid uncertainty, has played a key role in unsettling the market. I know of growers abandoning crops during the first lockdown in 2020 – this is still having repercussions on their planting rotations now. Labour shortages and market uncertainty have seen large scale operations not replanting as scheduled, one organisation was so short staffed they destroyed their plants, just prior to delivery from the nursery, at a major cost.
In the past two weeks the price of tomatoes has risen to levels as high as or higher than last year. Cucumber prices have gone back and forth with some saying they went too high. Routine and repetition are key for growers, they certainly were for my business. They allow you to plan accurately and to have a predictable flow of work. Currently, certainty around ‘what to grow’ and ‘when’ is a guessing game.
Energy is another uncertain factor, growers that use coal and gas really effected, this is causing additional ambiguity and has repercussions on planting plans.
Businesses will identify when the market was at its strongest the previous season, and then plan their planting/production around this. This is common and has been happening for decades, it just is more evident this season. I sympathise with growers, as they must make predictions, they do not have crystal balls and as rival businesses are not allowed to discuss their plans, so it is planting by speculation. The system we work under is flawed but necessary to create competition, which is clear, however the fluctuations and the uncertainty must be driving growers up the wall. If there was a comprehensive national production plan, we could flatten out the highs and lows. As that is never going to happen growers will continue to speculate and cross fingers.
My recent visits have illustrated we have amazing growers producing superb products. I know as a grower having certainty around planting and production flow is critical. Covid has caused, and will continue to cause issues, – it seems like the hangover is going to continue for some time to come.
Article written and compiled by Stefan Vogrincic
All Article’s checked and edited by Marie Vogrincic
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