Big Losses for EBOP Kiwifruit Growers

Kiwifruit growers in Ōpōtiki are facing six-figure losses after high winds tore through their vines. Gusts of up to 120km/h hit the town last week, bringing down shelter belts in orchards and blowing buds off the vines.

Brett Wooten of Aspen Horticulture said the winds could not have come at a worse time.

"Shelter belts are down, and a lot of trees have been lost but it's quite a critical point in the season as the growth is really tender - the winds have blown a lot of leaves and buds off the vines,” said Wooten.

"In some blocks, we've lost 50 per cent of the potential fruit and in other places 90 percent."

Wooten, who has been growing kiwifruit in Ōpōtiki for the past 40 years, said it was the worst damage since cyclone Bola hit in 1988. He expected a six-figure loss of income from the damage.

"We've gone from two weeks ago when we didn't know how we were going to get all of the work done, to now where we are not sure what we'll get the staff to do.

"We're still assessing the damage; we need to decide if we will go through and remove the dead material but it might not be financially viable so we might just let nature take its course."

Wooten had spoken to other orchardists in the area who have decided to leave damaged blocks.

"They're just walking away from them because it's too much work to try and revive the vines, sometimes when you try and remove the dead stuff you do more damage than good."

He said the damage was devastating but the area of damage was localised, so the impact was not widespread.