SOUTH Australia's viticulture and horticulture sectors are counting the cost of a destructive hailstorm on Thursday last week, which caused mass damage in regions including the Adelaide Plains, Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Riverland.
PIRSA has been conducting assessments of hail-effected crops, plantations, orchards and vineyards this week, and primary industries minister David Basham has been visiting storm-affected growers.
While the final damage bill will not be known until assessments are completed, it is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars or even more.
Ausveg SA chief executive Jordan Brooke-Barnett said it would be hard to imagine the bill would be any less than $20m for vegetable growers on the Adelaide Plains where golf ball-sized hailstones smashed glass greenhouses and other infrastructure, and wiped out vegetable crops.
"The floods (in 2016) were up around the $70m mark and this certainly feels like an event of that scale," he said.
"Pretty much everywhere across the district suffered significant damage - it was a front that basically swept from Port Gawler, north of the Gawler River, right down to Waterloo Corner so the whole region was affected.
"The growers that were lucky - so to speak - would have suffered 10 to 20 per cent crop losses, while others would have lost anywhere up to 80pc."
Mr Brooke-Barnett said he didn't see a glass greenhouse with a roof intact during a post-storm driving inspection.
"That has created a massive mess and I really feel for those producers because a lot of them have lost pretty much everything and are facing bills of $300,000 to $400,000 to get their infrastructure back up and running and get a new crop in," he said.
Fruit Producers SA chief executive officer Jose Gil said apples and pears in the Adelaide Hills were severely hit, but the full extent of the damage would not be known until early December when fruit was setting.
"The apples are still young, about the size of a pebble currently, so it's hard to know what's going to happen to the fruit as it grows and how it reacts to the damage," he said.
"Because of the hail being so large, it's only caused one dent, not multiple dents, on a piece of fruit.
"What it may mean is that fruit might just drop so we may get less of a harvest, but it's still too early to tell."
Mr Gil said many cherry crops were spared.
Cherries that did get hit with the full force of the hail have fallen, but ones suffering minor damage may be salvageable.
"Cherries are resilient so the ones with minor damage may show scarring but may still be good," he said.
"There will still be plenty of cherries available for the Christmas table."
Mr Gil said growers who had netting in place had been spared completely.
Grapes cop a hiding
GRAPEGROWERS also bore the brunt of last week's hailstorm, with SA Wine Industry Association chief executive Brian Smedley saying the Barossa was hit hard, while there had also been reports of damage in the northern Adelaide Hills and parts of the Riverland.
"We're waiting for aerial mapping etc, in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology, to see what damage has been done across the state," he said.
Just 10 minutes of ferocious hail and wind was all it took to decimate 50 hectares of vines along Sawpit Gully Road, Keyneton.
Trevor March of Heathvale Wines said the hail and wind stripped their 10ha of vines, ripping leaves and fruit off. Their riesling vines were ten days off flowering, while their cabernet, shiraz and sagrantino shoots were between 20 and 30 centimetres long.
The March's are in the process of pruning all their vines back and hoping the basal buds will throw decent shoots for next year.
They are hoping to get 40-50pc of their usual grape harvest in May.
Despite the damage, the family are remaining upbeat and say the hailstorm was an "ironic" occurrence during what has been a dry year.
"As soon as we saw the damage, we started thinking about 2022 and having wood to lay down for the 2023 crop," Mr March said.
"You're always thinking in advance in this industry.
"We think this was a bit ironic because we haven't had any run-off into our dams this year and we've been excited any time it looks like it's going to rain, but have usually missed out.
"The one time we did get it, our vines got smashed."
PIRSA is encouraging producers to report storm damage to their respective industry bodies.
A Recovery Hotline - 1800 931 314 - is available for those who are unsure who to contact or in need of advice.
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