Far North strawberry grower 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 10 ha of tunnels at its Ngawha site to house 600,000 plants, but the shortage meant only 200,000 got into the ground.
In fact, the firm has had to diversify its crops this year amid a nationwide shortage of plants. Heavy rain destroyed about four million young plants at the country’s three main propagators at Bay of Plenty nurseries this year.
Jackson said the business had diversified to manage future risk: “It is hurting us from a return on investment perspective, making it challenging. But more so, we were geared up and 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, beetroot, cos lettuce, radishes - that we’re supplying to Northlanders and New Zealanders over the summer.”
Jackson said because of the shortage of strawberry plants, fewer strawberries will be available, so prices will be higher.