Orchards destroyed in hail storm

Orchards destroyed in hail storm

Nelson fruit growers are counting the cost of a destructive hail storm that ripped through the region yesterday, damaging many orchards that were near harvest.

Apple-grower Ian Palmer says the storm has delivered a crippling blow for some of the region's growers, who were hit by a severe hail storm just over a year ago. He predicts the damage this time could be worse.

"We had some pretty large hail, up over a centimetre across. They had quite jagged edges, so we've got quite a lot of cut fruit leaves," he says. "Then we had quite a lot of pea-sized hail for a while, then a lot of heavy rain."

Kevin Barrow has a huge operation – his orchards can produce up to 400,000 cartons of apples for export, and he says every variety on his property has been affected.

"There will be portions that we can juice," he says. "We will try and save as much as we can if there's any to save, but in some blocks it will be a complete write-off."

The region's mayor says there will be a flow-on effect for the wider community too, including the seasonal workers from the Pacific who are only here for the harvest.

"What we did find last year when we had hail, is there was quite a good collaboration between growers to say well if someone's not hit and they need staff, they can be transferred from an orchard that had staff lined up but don't need as many as they were expecting."

But that's little consolation for growers facing a second year of financial stress.

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