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Back to the news list The impossible season: Hail destroys 70 per cent o
15 November 2019 - Media Release - HB Today

Every day this season, a Hawke's Bay orchardist and his staff will go to work knowing they will make a loss.

The weather in Hawke's Bay, especially a sizeable hailstorm that hit the region in October, has played havoc with stone fruit growers, destroying millions of dollars worth of crop.

Paul Paynter, The Yummy Fruit Co general manager, did not want to say exactly how much the hailstorm had cost him.

But it was enough that it meant no matter what he or his staff did this season, he would be unable to make a profit, he said.

"It's been difficult to come to work and know your work won't come to fruition," Paynter said.

"Our stone fruit crop was 70 per cent damaged.

"There are now more fruit with hail marks than without them and the fruit looks scruffier than usual."

The hailstorm that destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops in Hawke's Bay. Photo / John Bidois
The hailstorm that destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops in Hawke's Bay. Photo / John Bidois

While the fruit was still sellable, it was "cosmetically not the best", he said.

"It's like a model with a pimple. It might not look that good, but because of the unseasonal warm weather it will still taste good.

"The sellers will have the option of buying fruit that is a little bit scruffy or none at all."

Paynter said he was very conscious of the impact of the weather the state of mind of growers around the region.

"The crop is badly impacted. Last season we had heavy rain which was really problematic, and this year it has been hail.

"We are making a loss before the financial year starts in December.

"It's just not possible to make a profit in the next financial year.

"We will need a whole lot of luck and we will need to dig ourselves out of a pretty big hole."

He said every farmer knew the risks involved.

"You have some big years, some bad years. We are pretty resilient and we are hoping for a better year next year."

Paul Paynter believes orchardists are resilient enough to get through this year's losses. Photo / File
Paul Paynter believes orchardists are resilient enough to get through this year's losses. Photo / File

Peaches were the least impacted, but plums and apricots were badly damaged, he said.

There won't be a big fruit supply till late-December, he said.

"The first apricots will be available in a week or so.

"There will be three weeks of very small, high priced early fruit."

Richard Mills, spokesman for Summerfruit NZ, said the hailstorm on October 1 was unprecedented in his 40 years in the industry, and for those who had been involved for even longer..

"It was so early in the growing season and so widespread.

"Half the stone fruit is grown outside of Hawke's Bay so perhaps 15 to 20 per cent of the national crop was affected," Mills guessed.

Areas such as Bay View received significant damage, large stone fruit volume areas such as Twyford had damage as well, "but to such a level that a near full crop, with a bit of extra work should be recoverable", Mills said.

"A few parts of the Heretaunga Plains are untouched, but not many."

Summerfruit NZ hosted a meeting two weeks after the event and gathered some early statistics, he said.

Mills said cherries, which were already being picked, were largely unaffected due to later bloom period and being covered with bird exclusion nets.

"Apricots which flower earlier in the season and to some extent are in the more severely affected areas may have 50 per cent of a normal crop when considering the region as a whole.

"Very early nectarines, which are starting harvest now, are also about 50 per cent of total volume with some growers close to full crop and others at close to 'nothing much to harvest'.

"The main crop of peaches and nectarines are still small and so its difficult to gauge but my guess is 80 per cent of a region wide crop."

He said plums would be close to a full crop as a few of the bigger growers were not impacted by hail too much.

"But this is only part of the story as a few individuals will have been severely impacted, both financially and emotionally.

"That said we should balance the severity that many Hawke's Bay growers are apple growers as well and most of the apples were still not at the flowering stage."

He said farmers had warning about the storm and thankfully were able to protect the trees from any potential disease infections.

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