Saturday, December 2, 2023

Hail limits summer fruit supply

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Some stonefruit will be in short supply this season after a severe hailstorm damaged Hawke’s Bay orchards in October.
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The storm hit the region at the most vulnerable time for growers when the fruit was in early spring growth. 

SummerfruitNZ market support manager Richard Mills said the storm was very unusual for the time of year.

“An October hailstorm this bad had not been witnessed before by growers.

“The last widespread event similar to this one was in March 1994 and all summerfruit had been harvested by that stage.”

 Apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums will be in short supply this season but cherries are unaffected.

“The volume that usually goes to market is down. Around 70% of peaches, plums and nectarines are still being sold but only 30% of the normal early apricots are in the supermarkets,” Mills said.

Extensive thinning by growers means the fruit might have small skin blemishes but most should be in good condition.

“Not every orchard was hit by the storm meaning there will still be lovely fruit coming on to the market,” he said. 

The full cost of the damage and revenue loss will not be known till the end of the season.

“The cost will vary with location relative to hail intensity,” Mills said.

“Some growers will not sell any fruit in order to maintain the assets, trees, for next season while some growers have been able to come close to a full crop with extra work like thinning damaged fruit.”  

The storm has not yet affected retail price but Mills has said it’s to soon to tell.

“We hope that prices will stay at a moderate to firm price for the season but ultimately it’s the market that decides.”

SummerfruitNZ organised a meeting for affected growers that was attended by the Rural Support Trust that focused on the issues caused by the storm.

“We hope consumers can support our growers through this tough time by being prepared to accept fruit that might not be perfect,” SummerfruitNZ chief executive Marie Dawkins said.

The Rural Support Trust has remained available to growers if help is required. 

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