Cyclone Debbie and Cook causes Northland lettuce shortage

Lettuce has been off the  supermarkets shelves this week due to a shortage caused by wet weather.
Lettuce has been off the supermarkets shelves this week due to a shortage caused by wet weather.

A shortage of some summer greens means shoppers cannot call Northland's lingering summer "salad days" - due to bad weather elsewhere.

Whangarei Pak'nSave ran out of lettuces, spinach and some other green vegetables on Tuesday.

The shelves where they would normally sit sported signs saying the produce was out of stock due to bad weather in the Bay of Plenty and other commercial growing areas.

The reduced supply could last for two weeks or more and means a price hike.

Pak'nSave belongs to the Foodstuffs group which includes New World and Four Square.

The Whangarei store's manager Grant Bennett confirmed there was an availability problem but he did not want to be quoted about the possible time frame.

There are several aspects to the problem, say growers in the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

Debbie Miller, a Katikati grower whose hydroponic business has largely escaped the wet weather, said seasonal "long days, short nights and a lack of sun" have affected outdoor growers.

Her business, Liberty Growers, supplied growers' markets and regular clients and like many smaller growers, was not part of the supermarket chain of supply.

A Pukekohe grower who wholesales to supermarkets, but who would not be named, described the situation as a "winter-style glitch" that had happened much earlier in the season than usual.

He said many growers from south Auckland to Hawke's Bay have to resow crops as the waterlogged soil means the current crop won't be harvested. Other soft leaf green crops have been damaged by heavy rain.

The aftermath of two Cylonces - Debbie and Cook - has swept across New Zealand in April.

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird confirmed the weather-related shortage of vegetables was causing a surge in prices.

Signs in New World supermarkets warn customers the supply of green leaf vegetables has been "dramatically affected". Beans, broccoli, salads, silverbeet, lettuce and spinach are all in short supply.

Foodstuffs' supermarkets generally buy in bulk from a central base which gets product sourced from wholesalers or commercial growers by the company's buyers.

Progressive Enterprise-owned Countdown, on the other hand, uses a system where stores have a closer direct relationship with local growers.

North Island spokesman, James Walker, said the chain has plenty of salad on its shelves, although spinach was in short supply.

"There are definite challenges at the moment across a variety of fruit and veges around the country due to the weather. Overall there is less supply available as produce is obviously highly susceptible to weather conditions.

"We have really good direct relationships with our local growers and suppliers so we're doing what we can to ensure we have supply wherever possible."

- Northern Advocate

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