For the second consecutive year, growers in the South Australian Adelaide Hills have been struck by severe hail storms, just as the new season’s young fruit was forming.
The series of wild storm fronts hit during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday, 21 November, 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.
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.
“Last October we talked of this being a ‘once in 100 year storm’, so it’s just heartbreaking to think that this can happen two years running,” said Susie Green, CEO Apple & Pear Growers’ Association of SA (APGASA), who has been coordinating the assessment and response effort.
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.
Offering sympathy and concern, visiting State Primary Industries Minister, Tim Whetstone, was also quoted by Channel 7 News as saying: “We will look at ways we can help growers implement that netting, but I must stress, that growers will have to help themselves.”
Attending a meeting of SA growers on Tuesday, 27 November, APAL’s Head of Government Relations, Jeremy Griffith, said: “We are working with Susie and growers to understand what they need right now, and importantly – what are the things that will make a meaningful difference.”
While the full impact of the storm will only become clear in coming weeks as fruit matures, Jeremy 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.
In the longer term, Jeremy said: “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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org