Meet the grower: NZ kūmara harvest underway

Meet the grower: NZ kūmara harvest underway

After a challenging season for New Zealand’s growers following Cyclone Gabrielle, we’re excited to see fresh local kūmara back in store after nearly a year of shortages.

To find out how the harvest is going, FMCG Business caught up with Anthony Blundell of Kaipara Kumara and Ryan McMullen, General Manager of Fruit and Vegetables at Woolworths NZ.

When exactly is kūmara harvest season in NZ?

Ryan McMullen: Our distribution centres begin receiving kūmara in early February and we look to roll it out to stores as soon as possible. We know how much Kiwis love their kūmara and it is always such an exciting time for us to be able to get it back on shelves.

Anthony Blundell: Kūmara breeding stock from the previous season’s harvest, is bedded from July to September under plastic cloches under carefully controlled conditions. Transplanting into the growing fields takes place during October to December, depending on variety, and the main harvesting period takes place in February to May.

When will fresh NZ kūmara arrive in store?

Ryan McMullen: kūmara made its return to some stores in early February before rolling out across Aotearoa in the following weeks. We’re delighted that New Zealand kūmara is now on shelves in every Woolworths across the country. We know what this veg means to Kiwis and we are delighted to be able to share it across the country.

Anthony Blundell: Our first crops rolled off the farm and on to distribution centres in the first weeks of February.

How challenging has the last year been for local kūmara growers?

Ryan McMullen: For many of us Cyclone Gabrielle is well in the past, however, our growers across the country are still working through the fallout of the devastation. In New Zealand Woolworths created our Grower Fund, which sought to help our amazing growers rebuild after the cyclone. We’re delighted to see that fund supporting growers like Kaipara kūmara to get back on their feet. We also offered temporary employment to the Kaipara team so they could continue to work while the farm was repaired.

Anthony Blundell: Just as the harvesting process for the 2023 kūmara crop started, we were hit hard when the cyclone destroyed 73% of our crop. With only one kūmara crop per calendar year it is so seasonal dependent. It really hit hard when we were not able to meet the demands of customers. We estimate we lost $7 million in value of the crop. It was devastating for us to see our hard work washed away. We were very fortunate to benefit from the Grower Fund to help us get back on our feet.

What price tag can shoppers expect for a kg of new season NZ kūmara?

Ryan McMullen: kūmara is now on shelves for $7.00kg/$7.50kg. Obviously with supply and demand plus availability the price will fluctuate slightly. It is important that our growers see a good reward for their crop and we work hard with them to set prices that are good for customers but also ensure growth for growers.

Top tips for storing kūmara – for retailers?

Ryan McMullen, General Manager of Fruit and Vegetables at Woolworths NZ

Ryan McMullen: We move quickly once the crop is harvested to preserve freshness. Our fresh distribution centres are designed to preserve freshness, prevent crop loss and deliver farm to plate freshness. Kūmara is snapped up fast in stores, so once we have it delivered to a store it is placed in a designated area and brought straight out to the shop floor where customers can buy it.

Anthony Blundell: Our harvested kūmara is stored in wooden bins in a purpose-built shed over the Winter, Spring and early Summer months. This space is a temperature and humidity controlled environment which helps prevent weight loss, sprouting and pithiness. What’s great about working with Woolworths is that our crops get placed in a state of the art temperature controlled facility. It means our kūmara is kept at ideal temperatures to preserve freshness. We work hard to produce the finest quality kūmara so that attention and commitment to ensure consumers get to really appreciate our work is fantastic.

What’s the best way to store kūmara at home?

Anthony Blundell: It is essential when storing kūmara to avoid exposure to moisture and light. What you will find when kūmara gets moist is that it will rot much quicker and light encourages the kūmara sprout. I recommend wrapping the kūmara and placing it in a cupboard in a cool dark space.

Your favourite way to cook kūmara is….

Ryan McMullen: Really simple and really easy. Pick some slightly smaller kumara. Boil them whole with their skin on for about 5 mins. Tip off the water and put them into a hot roasting tray with Macro olive oil. Back into the oven at 250 degrees for about 20-25 mins. Amazing!

Anthony Blundell: Roast or mashed kūmara is on the menu many times in the Blundell household, our favourite is a Creamy Chicken Kumara Curry – which is on our website

Kūmara goes really well with….

Ryan McMullen: Everything. I eat it most days.

Scroll to Top