Growers need support
STEVE RENDLE and GIANINA SCHWANECKE
Wairarapa’s pea ban remains in place, despite speculation to the contrary after news that no pea weevils were detected in trap crops planted in the 2018/19 season.
Federated Farmers arable chairwoman Karen Williams, a pea grower, said that while a return to pea production was on the horizon, the ban had not been lifted.
“I did have one person calling me asking if it had been lifted but the ban is still on, I want to emphasise that,” she said.
All but two testing sites in the region have been clear of pea weevils for two years. But two “hot spot” sites to the east of Masterton have only 12 months of weevil free tests.
Two years of “area freedom” is technically required to assure industry, government and trading partners that the pea weevil has been eradicated.
The Pea Weevil Governance Group, comprising Ministry of Primary Industries officials, Federated Farmers and grower representatives, will meet at the end of March to decide on future response options.
A partial lifting of the ban may be an option, Williams said, if it is practical.
“It’s a good time to discuss the idea, and whether it’s practical.
“But there may be issues if you have the likes of spraying or cartage contractors moving from an area where the ban still applies to areas where it has been lifted, with the chance of have a weevil hitching a ride.”
Williams said that was unlikely, but the risk had to be considered.
“The last thing we want to do is fall at the final hurdle by coming back too quick.”
She paid tribute to farmers and home growers.
“The farmers have done the hard yards, and so have the home growers.
“By not growing peas, there have been no pea flowers for the weevils to breed on.”
Pea weevils were first found in Wairarapa in April 2016, leading to a controlled area notice being issued that July which prevented peas from being grown on farms or home gardens throughout the region.
A small number  of weevils were found in trap crops at two sites east of Masterton in late 2017 but the rest of the region was clear, and no weevils were found in the region’s 25 trap crops this season.
If the ban is maintained for the full two years, the next testing would take place in 2019/20 season, with trap crops planted around October and flowering in December-January.
Williams said whatever the governance group’s decision, she hoped Wairarapa growers would be supported.
“I would be extremely disappointed if merchants were at all hesitant about offering pea production contracts in Wairarapa once the ban is lifted,” she said.
“Local growers have been assiduous and committed to eradicating this pest weevil, at considerable cost to their incomes.”
MPI figures show that in 2016 New Zealand produced 60,000 tonnes of peas, earning $50 million in domestic sales and $80 million in exports – with Wairarapa contributing to about 10 per cent of the national output.