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One year later

New Zealand kiwifruit sector still reels from Cyclone Gabrielle's impact

Te Tairāwhiti, New Zealand, still reels from Cyclone Gabrielle's impact a year later, with kiwifruit growers facing significant losses. The cyclone's aftermath has led to vines collapsing, yellowing leaves, and shrivelled fruit, prompting some growers to exit the industry by selling their gold licences. Tim Tietjen, a local representative and orchard owner, estimates the damage at around $1 million for the region, with approximately 40% of the area's 50 orchardists affected. The stress on the vines has resulted in reduced per hectare tray production, possibly halving it for some.

"So they've spent all the money, pruning, doing all the sprays, bees in for pollination, that sort of thing, and then the orchard's just collapsed as the stress has come on. So yeah, a real hit," Tietjen remarked. He personally faces a significant reduction in production, with parts of his orchard needing replanting and others producing half the usual number of trays. The sudden decline in vine health post-Christmas took many by surprise, exacerbating concerns over mental health among growers.

Tairāwhiti accounts for 10% of New Zealand's kiwifruit production, and for some, this season marks the third consecutive challenging year. The industry, however, sees a glimmer of hope with the adoption of the Bounty rootstock, known for its resilience to varying moisture conditions, offering a potential path to recovery. NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond acknowledged the broader challenges faced across regions like Hawkes Bay and Northland but remained optimistic about the industry's overall outlook, despite the adversity faced by some growers.


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