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Storms hammer Australian apple production

Australian apple industry reeling after storms inflict widespread damage to major growing regions

Storms hammer Australian apple production

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A hail storm that ripped through the Australian apple growing region of Batlow late yesterday inflicted severe damage on the district’s apple orchards and an estimated 50 per cent of next year’s crop has been destroyed.  Orchards in the Gippsland region were also severely hit by hail storms. 

Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) managing director Jon Durham said the storm was centered on the most concentrated area of apple orchards and early estimates were that up to 50 per cent of next year’s crop had been destroyed. 

“This will impact the whole Batlow community.  With such a reduction in fruit to pack and sell, there will be less employment in the orchards and at the major packhouses, less transport and overall, less money in the community.

“Orchardist will have the added burden to repair and replace infrastructure when their income has been dramatically reduced,” Jon said.

Batlow orchardist and APAL Board Director, Greg Mouat, said he has spoken to many growers who told him it was the worst storm they had experienced at this time of the year.

“We are yet to assess whether the damage to trees has killed the buds for the 2013 crop as well.  The knock-on effects of this storm will be severe and long lasting.”

Batlow grower Ian Cathels said he lost 20 per cent of his crop.  “We had most of our trees covered with hail netting but we still sustained large losses.  However, we feel incredibly fortunate.  Many of my neighbors lost 100 per cent of their crop,” he said. 

In Gippsland, grower Brad Fankhauser also lost 30 to 40 per cent of next year’s crop from storm and hail damage. 

“Any trees that were not covered with hail netting were stripped of most of their fruit.  We have treated these trees to prevent fungal infections and to remove small fruit.  Any fruit remaining will mostly be second grade.  From now on, we have to reduce the management requirements of these trees to minimise the losses we have suffered,” Fankhauser said. 

Jon Durham said this severe storm impact comes at a time when growers are facing financial demands to upgrade orchards so they can compete with imported apples.

“APAL is advocating to the government a package of measures that are designed to assist the industry make adjustments to this new environment where imported apples are part of the market mix. 

“A key element of this package is to secure each year’s crop using environmental covers in all regions to protect against hail damage.  With climate change, it is predicted the frequency of these extreme weather events will increase. 

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