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Fruit growers grateful for drought

Wednesday 6 Mar 2013 5:41 p.m.

Despite hardship in other areas, Hawke’s Bay fruit growers are enjoying the dry weather.

Apple grower Carl Fairey's looking forward to his best season in years.

“In general, the fruit quality is really high. The tonnage is really good. We're looking forward to a cracker.”

His apples are bigger, juicier and sweeter than previous seasons because of the same conditions that are plaguing pastoral farmers.

The increased sunlight hours mean there's more sugar in the fruit, making it sweeter, and the hot, dry conditions mean there's less disease among crops.

Mr Fairey feels for suffering farmers, but his wish is their nightmare.

“Another two months of a lack of rain would be fantastic for us,” he says.

Wattie's is also reaping the benefits of so much sunshine. Conditions in Hawke's Bay are perfect for harvesting. In the next five weeks, Wattie's will process 34,000 tonnes of tomatoes. Most of it will be made into tomato paste for tinned tomato-based products.

Almost all of the fresh tomatoes we eat are grown in glass houses. Those growers too are relishing the weather. In Clevedon, where drought has been declared, boutique tomato grower Anthony Tringham’s plants are laden with fruit.

The bumper season means consumers get both quality and quantity.

Fresh produce exporters Turners and Growers say the only problem with such good weather is making sure the quality of the fruit stays as high as it was when it left the vine.

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