Prices of kūmara to skyrocket as Cyclone Gabrielle worsens shortages

Kūmara lovers are getting hit hard in the back pocket as prices skyrocket with Cyclone Gabrielle worsening the current shortages. 

The cyclone tore through the eastern parts and the upper North Island, destroying homes and businesses while a fortune in fresh produce has been wiped out.

Photos have been seen of vegetables like pumpkins, garlic, onion, kūmara and potatoes littered on the roadside throughout the North Island.

The prolonged wet weather that has battered the country this summer means a kūmara shortage is on the horizon. When it's time to harvest, kūmara needs dry conditions, which they've received little of this season. 

Simpson Gardens - a kūmara growing business based 30km south of Dargaville in Northland - director Warwick Simpson told AM on Thursday the current shortage is mainly from last season, but Cyclone Gabrielle has had a "huge impact".

"We are having issues with our planting season. We've had a lot of rain and it's really made planting a challenge and the industry's probably about 70 percent of the area planted that we normally would," Simpson told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.

"Obviously, Gabrielle's come along now as well and that's had a huge impact as well with some of the crops being a metre underwater so that low supply of kūmara is going to be kicking in about now."

Simpson estimates about 50-90 percent of kūmara has been lost. 

"At the moment, since the crops are underground, we can only see what we've definitely lost, but as we harvest, we'll find rots coming out," he said.

"Then once they got into storage, more will rot there as well, so it's going to be a gradual game of finding out how much we've actually lost as the year goes on." 

Simpson Gardens director Warwick Simpson.
Simpson Gardens director Warwick Simpson. Photo credit: AM

On top of this, Simpson said he's throwing out about 50 percent of his kūmara because of rot, which will have a dramatic effect on prices for Kiwis. 

"There's a supply and demand effect, so since we're going to be so short of kūmara in the coming season, that's going to push the prices up," he told AM. 

"Growers are going to be doing all they can to get that kūmara into the supermarkets and onto the shelves for people to take home, but with the shortage, it's going to be about trying to stretch it out."

Simpson expects the shortage is going to affect the entire season but is hopeful things will improve this time next year.

Watch the full interview with Warwick Simpson above.