A summer of constant rain has dampened the yields of Wairarapa arable crops such as peas, cereals and corn.
Although Ahiaruhe Farm’s Karen Williams is thankful to have been spared the floods that have washed out East Coast growers, the “constant, excessive rain” in the region has resulted in a season that’s “well below average”.
“We got only a quarter of the yield from our seed peas that we expected, because of the rain in November and December.”
The inclement weather has also been a challenge for rye grass, which “really struggles with the wet weather – the seed gets knocked out, and makes it harder to get it with the combine” – and cereal crops, which “that rain just drowned … we’re just waiting to see what the yield is like.”
Williams said she’d been hoping for a typically hot and dry Wairarapa summer to make up for last year’s difficult season.
“If you know it will be dry or wet, you will prepare for that, but when it flips around, that’s when it becomes harder to manage.
“There’s a direct financial impact,” she said. “Then there’s a flow-on effect in the supply. If products are down, everything suffers.”
Inflation has added to the difficulties, with “significant rises in input prices – things like fuel, fertiliser, seed, labour, and freight”.
Williams worries the challenging conditions will cause people to opt out of farming.
“What does it look like when you spend all that time preparing your crops, but when the time comes, there’s nothing to harvest?
“Our food production is at risk. With this changeable weather, I worry people will say, ‘this is too hard’,” she said.
“All this dreary weather has had a mental impact on everyone, but on the farm, we’re on the coal face and we’re seeing the effects that little bit more.”
However, Williams remains optimistic that things will come right once the Gabrielle Cyclone had whipped through.
For now, she said, “We’re focused on the clean-up, the insurance, and how we get behind our people.”