Friday, April 19, 2024

Kūmara crop bounces back, better than ever

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Warm weather brings favourite back to vege shelves after a tough season.
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Kūmara is back on the menu after its absence from Kiwi dinner plates following the devastation of crops last season by Cyclone Gabrielle.  

New season red, orange and gold kūmara are reported in good supply this season as harvest gets underway and produce hits supermarket shelves. 

About 97% of New Zealand kūmara are grown in Northland due to its warm and rich soil, but last year’s cyclone battered crops before most could be harvested. 

Kūmara are harvested only once a year, between February and June, and placed in cool storage to maintain supply for the rest of the year.  

“The cyclone essentially wiped out a huge part of the country’s supply at a crucial time and it’s taken 12 months to be able to build that back up again,” Foodstuffs North Island head of produce and butchery Brigit Corson said. 

Growers have faced a tough reality over the past year with hopes now New Zealanders will show their support and make the most of the new season kūmara.  

“Many of our customers have told us how they’ve missed having a regular supply of kūmara and we hope they’ll get behind our growers as the season reaches its peak over the coming months and produce is in abundance. That’s when we’ll start to see great value as well.”

Delta Produce, the largest supplier of kūmara for Foodstuffs stores across NZ, reported after the cyclone it lost about 60% of its crop, which either didn’t yield or was rotten.  

“Working for more than 25 years in this industry, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Delta Produce general manager Locky Wilson said.  

“We had to scale back our operations just to see us through this last year and some growers were impacted more badly than others, so we concentrated on how we could help see them through to be able to carry on into the future.  

“The biggest concern was ensuring all growers had sufficient seed, and thankfully we managed to get there.  

“We’ve had huge hopes that this year’s crop would be good and thanks to the warm weather we’ve had, the early season kūmara is the best shape and taste I’ve ever seen, so we’re hopefully looking at a good season ahead.” 

Stats NZ latest Food Price Index has reported that many fresh food favourites, like tomatoes and avocados, have decreased in price, some by more than 20%, which comes back to bumper produce supply at the right time of year. 

Corson said warmer temperatures are having a direct impact on the seasonality of produce this year, with new season produce like kūmara, apples, and Packham Pears in good supply.

Watermelon and blueberries, also heavily impacted by the cyclone, have had a bumper season due to the warmer weather, with shelf prices also reflecting this. 

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