Cyclone Gabrielle: Serious concerns about food supply, prices after masses of crops destroyed

There are serious concerns about the food supply in New Zealand after Cyclone Gabrielle destroyed huge swathes of crops. 

The cyclone devastated crops in regions considered the country's food baskets and experts are saying it could take years to return to normality.

Recent drone footage has provided a sour taste of the devastation facing our food producers in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Dairy farms in the Coromandel are covered in slush and silt from severe flooding.

"I'd say probably 80 percent of the farm was underwater at its peak," said Coromandel dairy farmer Dean Goodwin.

Due to power cuts, milking has been stalled and it is affecting the cows' health.

"The longer they go, the worse it gets, the cows start getting infections. We just went through the herd this morning and we already have 15 mastitis cows overnight," Goodwin said. 

One paddock, in particular, has taken the brunt of the cyclone with pasture replaced with sand, all due to flooding which has left the cows with nothing to feed on.

At a neighbouring kiwifruit orchard, owner Andrew Hill said silt and debris from the floods is covering about seven hectares. 

"The main concern is vine death... if we leave all this silt around the vines, they suffocate from lack of oxygen," Hill said. 

The impact of Cyclone Gabrielle is being felt across the country with rural communities in Wairarapa fearing thousands of animals died in the flooding. 

Farms in Tinui have been swamped and Federated Farmers said it will take years to recover.

"It'll have quite a long-term effect, with quite a long tail in terms of recovery," Federated Farmers vice-president Wayne Langford said. 

About 95 percent of New Zealand's kumaras are grown in Kaipara, north of Auckland, but the flooding has ruined crops.

"My head's telling me the crop's a write-off, but I'm hoping we'll be able to salvage something if the water gets off quick enough," Kaipara kumara grower Doug Nilsson said. 

Kaipara Kumara managing Director Anthony Blundell estimates the industry will be down about 70 percent in volume.

"It depends on the weather going forward, the harvest hasn't even kicked off yet," Blundell said. 

Dargaville kumara farmer Michael Frood has been trying to drain eight hectares of flooded crops.

All the damage has sparked fears food prices could rise even higher and Foodstuffs said they're determined to keep prices down but acknowledged harvests will be much smaller.

"Clearly, there's been a lot of damage to a lot of growing, particularly through the East Cape, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, and some in Northland as well," Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin said. 

Damage among areas New Zealand traditionally relies on for its food.