Strawberry grower facing shortage of plants turns to vege production

Strawberries in plastic container.

Heavy rainfall destroyed about four million young strawberry plants at the country’s three main propagators.
Photo: 123RF

A Far North strawberry grower has had to diversify its crops this year amid a nationwide shortage of strawberry plants.

Heavy rainfall destroyed about four million young plants at the country’s three main propagators at Bay of Plenty nurseries earlier this year.

Kaikohe Berries is a joint venture between the two commercial arms of Te Rūnanga-ā-iwi o Ngāpuhi and the Far North District Council, with 12 permanent employees and up to 60 seasonal workers.

General manager Todd Jackson said the two-year-old business built 10ha of tunnels at its Ngawha site to house 600,000 plants, but the shortage meant only 200,000 got into the ground.

He said the business had diversified to manage any future risk.

“It is hurting us from a return on investment perspective making it challenging,” Jackson said.

“But more so, we were really geared up and really excited to grow 10 hectares of strawberries, so we’ve got to wait another year now for that to happen.

“What we have done is plant the remaining six or seven hectares with seasonal vegetables, bok choy, beetroots, cos lettuce, radishes that we’re supplying to Northlanders and New Zealanders over the summer.”

Jackson said due to the shortage of strawberry plants – there will be less strawberries around, so prices will be higher.

“I think if everyone’s prepared to dip into their pockets, you’ll definitely have a strawberry or two,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that the price of strawberries is going to increase this year for the consumer. That’s just supply and demand at the end of the day.

“So they’ll be out there, they’ll be in short supply, so if you do see them, I would grab them and you can get your hands on them, because it’s going to be a really short supply year.”

Berryfruit Propagators said 13.5 million plants were sold domestically last year, while this year there would only be an estimated 9 million available to both commercial and home garden markets.

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