NZ: Summer heat brings berry bounty
January 28, 2015

The hot, dry start to the year has seen some fruit growers produce bumper crops this season while others are hanging out for rain.blues4

With only 10mm of rain recorded by the Metservice in Tauranga since December 22 and temperatures in the mid to high 20s, grapes and berries are thriving.

Kerry Guy said the grapes on his Katikati vineyard were "growing beautifully".

"This is absolutely perfect [weather]. If we were to have this weather here in the Bay of Plenty like we have this year and we had last year this would be New Zealand's premier grape growing area," he said.

"The fruit's looking absolutely perfect and it's one of the best crops we've ever had."

To produce a good crop of grapes the region required little rain between October and March, he said.

Blueberry season was also in full swing, Redwood Lane Blueberries owner Shirley Marriott said.

The field opened for picking on Saturday despite earlier fears the berries might not be ready, she said.

"They are absolutely fantastic. Ten days ago we thought we wouldn't be open for three weeks. The amazing weather over the last week and we've got blueberries everywhere," she said.

"We've got an absolutely bumper crop. We get a little bit of rain every now and then. That's all we need - sun and a bit of rain. It makes the blueberries really nice and sweet."

Strawberries had not fared so well with the extreme heat causing a shorter season, Somerfield Berryfruit's Vashti Stowe said.

"Our season was really late. It was at least a few weeks late and it's got hot all of a sudden so it's going to be a short season."

The strawberry field would only be open for picking for another week or two, she said.

Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president Rick Powdrell said the wet spring had served farmers well although they were keeping a close eye on the weather as the ground continued to dry out.

"It'd be nice to get some rain in the next couple of weeks," he said. "With the heat we are getting the soil moisture loss is going to be quite high."

The rain that came through late last year allowed some farmers to make silage to help them get through any dry patch, Mr Powdrell said.

Kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said growers of the Hayward variety were desperate for a decent downpour.

"Anyone who's got irrigation is running it all the time. At the moment fruit size isn't too badly affected but if it continues we'll definitely see something like we had two years ago in 2013," he said.

"We need some rain badly. It could be worth an awful lot to the Bay of Plenty economy."

Weatherwatch head analyst Philip Duncan said there was the chance of heavy afternoon showers around the ranges today but he did not expect the rain to be widespread.

For the rest of the week and into the weekend it would remain dry, he said.

"If we don't get rain in the next two weeks there will be some serious concerns from the farming community and growers. I'm optimistic we will get some rain," he said.

"I'm pretty certain we will see an Indian summer in the upper North Island. That doesn't mean it's going to be dry but it means it's going to be warm."