Pukekohe veggie farmers estimate losing 20 percent of their income after floods

Some veggie farmers in Pukekohe reckon they've lost 20 percent of their income from the weekend's floods.

It's come as they recover from the impact of COVID-19, the loss of migrant workers and four months of horrendous weather.

One of the more bizarre moments of Auckland's washout was the crops washed away with every floating onion making vegetable growers lose income.

"I'd say probably about 10, 10 to 20 percent on the high side. Somewhere along there," Pukekohe vegetable grower Quong Fong told Newshub.

Fong had planned to harvest their once-a-year crop in the next couple of days.

"If the storm didn't come this weekend then most growers would have been making a good start harvesting, getting the onions off the ground."

Instead, it's a clear-up job. The onions in the field are salvageable. With wind and a bit of rain, they can still be exported. But the onions that were washed down over the weekend are completely useless. 

Fong and his colleagues spent the weekend clearing the road and getting rid of the onions out of a sense of civic duty. They now have Tuesday's storm to worry about.

"Because all these onions can move off the paddock again," Fong said.

Growers said the excess rainfall will affect the quality and shelf life of many crops and some contaminated by floodwater will have to be destroyed.

"[There is a] high risk of foodborne illness so anyone that's had food poisoning, just imagine a bad dose of that if that product is contaminated," United Fresh NZ safety representative Ann-Marie Arts told Newshub.

Farmers don't generally insure veggie crops because it costs so much and in Pukekohe, it's simply the latest headache - from the pandemic to labour shortages, which they'll air in a meeting on Tuesday night.

"It's taking a bit of a mental toll the last couple of years in the growing industry. First COVID [was] certainly a lot of regulatory pressure.

"And the climatic events, it's been pretty wet in Pukekohe since November so growers have been doing it hard," Pukekohe Vegetable Association vice president Simon Wilcox said.

There will be supply chain issues but growers are optimistic produce can be moved around the country to ensure we continue to get our five a day.