Pea pest closes Wairarapa farms

Pea pest closes Wairarapa farms

All Wairarapa pea farms have been forced to close for the next two years after a damaging pest was found on eight properties.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the pea weevil feeds on growing pods and threatens the entire industry.

It's now working with affected farmers to help them find alternative cropping options for the next two seasons during the temporary ban.

MPI's Investigation Diagnostic Centres and Response director, Dr Veronica Herrera, says the weevil's also been found in three seed storage facilities in the region.

"We know that this situation is very concerning to local growers who will bear the brunt of this operation through no fault of their own."

"We met today with a large proportion of the Wairarapa pea growers and most agree that while it will be tough, taking out the larvae's food source in this region for a couple of years will protect all New Zealand's growers in the long term."

"No other country has attempted eradication of this pest as all discoveries have been considered 'too far gone'. We have caught this early enough that we believe we have a very real chance of full eradication with this method."

Federated Farmers spokesman Jamie Falloon says there are 60 commercial pea growers in Wairarapa.

"This is pretty uncertain times for growers and MPI as well. We are trying to run a really collaborative approach to dealing with this issue. This is no fault of the growers this has happened and this is a big impact to them losing 60 years of history of growing peas in the Wairarapa."

"We do a marrowfat pea business into Japan and Asia where we get a premium for non-fumigation. With no pea weevil, we don't have to fumigate for that market and we get a premium for it. With the pea weevil it makes it more challenging to export into that market."

Processed vegetables New Zealand chair David Hadfield says it could be disastrous for the more than $100 million industry.

"If it spread into either the Hawke's bay, Gisborne area or Canterbury it could have serious effect on processed crops… we wouldn't be able to harvest that crop and in the factory it would mean a lot of extra costs."

Dr Herrera says Wairarapa home-gardeners have also been told not to plant peas for the next couple of years.

"We'll be working with garden centres and retailers, plus doing widespread advertising and information drops to ensure home gardeners understand the situation and why it's important they help out."

Timing of the ban couldn't be worse for the Government - it came as it revealed a glossy plan to prevent more invaders just like the pea weevil.

"We can't test for every entire seed so we take a cross section and sample that, but unfortunately we don't know how it came into New Zealand," says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Pea farmers will now have to apply for compensation from the Government.

It'll cost millions to control the insect. If that fails and it spreads, the entire industry will be jeopardised.