Extreme weather is to blame for supermarket salad shelves being empty around the country again, but one grower says the solution is not as easy as just taking lettuce-growing indoors.
Earlier this month, Niwa said a third La Nina weather pattern would bring continued weather extremes next year. Growers and economists said this would mean intermittent shortages of fresh produce as well as volatility in the price that consumers would pay.
The rain hampered growing business Leaderbrand’s ability to harvest and plant crops because tractors could not go out in the fields when there was too much mud. This meant one bad week of weather could throw out a planting schedule for weeks and lead to supply issues at supermarkets.
But Leaderbrand chief executive Richard Burke said that although the company had recently invested in indoor growing facilities, it was not a silver bullet that would assure an uninterrupted supply of fresh produce. Excessive or too little moisture played the biggest part in crop losses. It would be controlled in an indoor facility, Burke said.
But changing from outdoors to indoor growing was not necessarily the right financial move for growers because the cost of building indoor growing facilities was more than $1 million per hectare, Burke said. There were other costs on top of that, such as land.
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