Some parts of central and upper North Island may be 15% down on maize production this season, says Rural Contractors NZ.

Julie Clark from Otorahanga and Helen Slattery from Matamata represent members from Taupo north on the RCNZ Board. Helen, who is RCNZ President, says ex-tropical Cyclone Lola, which saw some parts of Northland receive three times their normal October rainfall, topped months of wet weather in the region.

She’s heard of some Northland contractors having to plant maize crops twice and others abandoning planting efforts. In her area of eastern Waikato, they’d had some days of clear weather allow machinery to be operated and maize crops in the district were pretty much on par with earlier seasons.

Julie Clark says she’s hearing some parts of the Hauraki Plains were still too wet to plant with one rural contractor there estimating maize production in the area would be down about 15%.

The business she and her husband John run was probably going to be about 10% down in its usual maize silage area planted this season. She says that’s partly weather related although October and early November had been pretty good.“Ironically we could now do with a decent dollop of rain.”

Other factors included clients retiring from farming or buying their own blocks for maize. Dairy returns were playing a part with some farmers choosing to wait to secure maize silage rather than contracting for supply. Rural contractors were facing their own cost challenges, with diesel, wages and insurance all rising considerably in the last few years.

John Clark Contracting was growing its own usual hectares of maize crops but contracting in a bit less amid the lower orders, while keeping an eye on the forecast return of El Niño drought conditions.“I’m hedging my bets on it going dry,” she says. “It’s not an easy industry to be in.”

There was currently plenty of feed and one other major Waikato rural contractor reported he was planting about the same area of maize crop as last year. That in itself was a difficult season with ongoing rain.

Helen Slattery says her area of Waikato was still getting regular rain.“We’re racing against the weather every break we get.”

However, there was plenty of maize in the ground, temperatures were rising and there was still time to plant some later varieties, though that was reliant on reasonable early rainfall.“It’s a gamble that we take every season,” she says.

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Andrew Olsen says he’s staying in touch with Federated Farmers amid some concerns of a possible feed shortage in some areas later in the season. “We’ve got too much rain in some parts of the North Island and likely drought conditions in others. This can put both farmers and rural contractors under pressure.”

RCNZ and Federated Farmers last year developed price indices and draft contracts to assist members.

“We are telling our members to stay in touch with farmer clients. We are also asking Federated Farmers to remind their members that cost and supply pressures equally affect rural contractors,” says Andrew Olsen.