An urgent growers meeting was held at Lenswood last month in the wake of a November hailstorm that destroyed next year’s apple and some cherries.
Lenswood, South Australia, apple grower Ashley Green lost about 60 per cent of each tree’s fruit.
“Every tree and every patch on every property has hail-damaged fruit – the apple skin is peppered with hail damage dots,” he said.
“This will be two hail-damaged crops in a row and we are struggling.”
Mr Green said the damage meant they would not even recoup their input costs.
“The problem is 70pc of our on-farm costs occur at harvest and the costs do not change whether we are picking damaged or perfect fruit,” he said.
“We have packing, cool storage and freight costs regardless of the return.”
The return for cosmetically perfect fruit from supermarkets is about $2 a kilogram to $3/kg for class one fruit and Mr Green’s farmgate costs are about $1/kg.
But last year’s hail damaged fruit could only be sold into the juice market that has an average return of 18 cents/kg to 27c/kg.
“We are hoping supermarkets will accept some damaged apples because last year the public showed they were open to buying fruit marketed as Hailstorm Heroes,” Mr Green said.
“We would like to see the government step in and help SA growers invest in hail netting or else this will keep happening,” he said.
SA Apple and Pear Growers Association chief executive officer Susie Green said almost every grower in the Adelaide Hills had been affected.
“We held an urgent growers meeting to help growers decide how they will manage damaged crops,” she said.
“We made support services available for growers that were significantly impacted.”
Ms Green said this year’s damage bill was on a par with last year’s hailstorm in October.
“We really need the consumers to overlook the cosmetic damage because the more fruit we can get into the fresh market and not juice, the better it is for everyone,” she said.
“But unfortunately growers have little choice in terms of management decisions at this time of the year.”