Central Otago cherry growers face loss of half their harvest after heavy rain decimates crops

A potential record harvest for Central Otago cherry growers has been halved following recent downpours.

But the heavy rain that decimated the crop has provided a boon for South Island dairy farmers.

Split and burst - blemished cherries are unsaleable, left to rot on the orchard floor.

"It's awful walking through an orchard at the moment and seeing the ground red with damaged cherries but at the end of the day we've got to keep out of the packhouse and out of the box," Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Tim Jones says.

Up to 60 percent ended up on the ground.

Central Otago cherry growers are now scrambling to make the most of the fruit left unscathed.

"Four or five days ago we were all a bit down in the dumps but there's still some good fruit out there," Jones says.

Growers have spent more than $5 million hiring helicopters, using them to dry off moisture so they can salvage what's left.

"Throughout Central Otago there's winners and losers with how the season's run," Jones says.

Dairy farmers have been on the winning end. In Canterbury, a dry spell before Christmas forced them to irrigate early.

"Most farms in Canty started two or three weeks earlier than normal which is quite a significant amount so to have two or three weeks off irrigation has made things a lot easier," North Canterbury Dairy chair Karl Dean says.

The rain enabled them to recoup unexpected costs and guarantee a good season.

"It means that dairy farmers this season will be able to continue their production levels as they were at December and carry that forward for a month or so just due to the grass being a better quality from the rain," Dean says.

Warm weather throughout the south this week bringing a positive outlook for both.