Give up the Gazpacho For Winter New Zealand: Low light levels playing havoc with local tomato yield

12 June 2023

Brigit Corson, Merchandise Manager, Produce Foodstuffs North Island

Produce experts are warning the low levels of light over the last few months, coupled with a crop failure in 2022 is adding up to a shortage of fresh tomatoes in the market this winter.


“Tomatoes are normally in shorter supply through the winter months because they’re out of season, but this year we’re going to be even shorter again” says Jerry Prendergast, General Manager Key Accounts at MG Produce Group, a co-operative of 400 New Zealand produce growers. 


The ‘no-mato’ problem can be put down to a couple of factors.  Tomatoes are grown in hothouses in NZ all year round, keen gardeners will know the fruit, yes fruit, convert sunlight into energy, which helps the tomatoes to grow.  Over the last couple of months, the number of sunshine hours we’ve had in Aotearoa has been comparatively low, so the current winter crop hasn’t thrived as well as in previous years.  


The other main factor is a previous crop failure says Jerry.


“Many NZ growers are getting back into the planting cycle, but it takes time to build things up again and this, plus low light over the last few months, is contributing to the tomato shortage we’re seeing right now.  Fresh tomato supply in Australia isn’t that flash at the moment either, so we can’t really rely on any much respite coming from across the ditch to bolster supply.” he adds.


Brigit Corson, who’s responsible for the sourcing of all things fruit and veg at the Foodstuffs North Island co-operative, the team behind PAK’nSAVE, New World and Four Square has raised the flag early to let customers know tomato supply is going to be tight this year, which will impact on the per KG prices.


“Growers are telling us we’re going to be short on supply until at least September, it’s the simple supply and demand balance, when produce is in plentiful supply, prices are generally lower.  It’s not all gloomy on the fresh fruit and veg front though, carrots are in plentiful supply, we have heaps of brown onions and pumpkins too, so let’s give away the gazpacho for winter and get into some nice in-season veggie soup.” adds Brigit.