Cost of living: Why vegetable growers are hopeful El Niño will bring 'better value' for consumers

Vegetable growers are hoping a period of drier weather will ensure they can keep up with planting programmes.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) declared the official arrival of El Niño this week, which brings more frequent, dry westerly winds, but also heightens the risk of drought.

LeaderBrand has produce farms right across the country and its chief executive Richard Burke said it was welcome relief after lots of rain.

"Frankly, we're pretty excited to get into that pattern, we thought we were in it. We had a really dry August, 17ml of rain for us, which is the driest month we've had in 18 months," he said.

"So we thought it had started, we had all our irrigators out, but we just had 160ml of rain so I guess for us the drought started again today."

Burke said that while El Niño brought a risk of drought, it was easier to manage than flooding.

"The biggest thing that we've seen is an inability to keep planting programmes up to date," he said.

"The current market at the moment's been through some quite mixed supply in things like broccoli and even cabbage and lettuce and stuff like that, and most of that has been created by people's inability to plant when they need to."

He said the weather would help growers keep up with planting and also reduce costs for consumers.

"If you see dry settled weather, people get their planting programmes done on time, they can get their growing systems working, you'll see much better supply in the market, you'll see much more structure to pricing, frankly you should see better value."

Burke said he was excited for a drier season.

NIWA said the country would see dramatic temperature swings over the next three months, with periods of unseasonable warmth followed by sharp cold southerlies.