SA fruit knocked around by hail

Hail storm damages SA apples, cherries

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Harvest was once again halted for most graingrowers across the state this week as rain continued to fall.

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BOTH horticulture and grain crops in South Australia have been hit by hail and rain in the past week. 

In last week’s hailstorm, Adelaide Hills apple and cherry growers were dealt a devastating blow to next year’s crops.

Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA executive officer, Susie Green, said industry would undertake assessments to determine the extent of the hail damage and potential yield losses.

“Initial feedback is almost all growers have been affected for a second year in a row,” she said.

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According to Apple and Pear Australia Limited, the storms struck just as the new season’s young fruit was forming.

The series of wild storm fronts hit during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, November 21, causing widespread power outages and delivering hail to most of the apple growing regions in the hills.

“The worst hit areas appear to include Uraidla, Forest Range, Lenswood, Balhannah and Oakbank,” an APAL update said. 

“Pear growers in Paracombe, Inglewood and Coromandel Valley appear to have escaped with only light markings, although this is yet to be quantified. Cherries and strawberries reportedly also suffered damage.

“While the full cost of the storms will take some time to gauge, early indications are that the damage is at least as severe as last year’s destructive October hail storm which resulted in extensive losses.

Ms Green said last October the group talked of this being a “once in 100 year storm”. 

“So it’s just heartbreaking to think that this can happen two years running,” Ms Green said.

Netting is the only way to protect fragile crops from future storm damage, however, with costs exceeding $60,000 per hectare, this is prohibitive for all but the largest growers.

Attending a meeting of SA growers on Tuesday, APAL’s head of government relations, Jeremy Griffith, said his group was working with Ms Green and growers to understand what they need right now and what are the things that will make a meaningful difference.

He urged the need to partner with retailers to maximise category specifications so that otherwise high-quality fruit does not become unsaleable due to cosmetic issues.

“Growers will need concrete support from State and Federal Government to implement netting, our only real risk mitigation against another catastrophic storm – as well as offering protection from fruit bats, sun damage and helping to conserve water,” Mr Griffith said. 

“The NSW model, whereby netting was subsidised by 50 per cent, should be considered.”

  • Growers seeking help or advice are encouraged to reach out to Susie Green, CEO, APGASA, via 0417 451 999 or sgreen@apgasa.com

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