Friday, December 1, 2023

Hailstorm hits arable crops hard

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Canterbury cropping farmers face hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses following a vicious hailstorm that pummelled the area last week.
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Hailstones the size of eggs battered cereal crops, shredded potato plants and ripped pea crops out of the ground.

The hardest hit were South Canterbury farmers, some who say they expect to lose up to 80% of their crops, especially in the case of potatoes.

United Wheatgrowers chairman Brian Leadley said the storm was extensive.

He had peas one month from harvest battered and bruised and ripped out of the ground.

A crop of purple milling wheat for New Zealand’s niche baking market is likely to be 20% down in yield in what Leadley expected would have been a 12.5 tonnes to the hectare crop.

“The hail has just pummelled it, not just the seed heads but the split leaf is now at high risk of disease too.

“It is a niche grain, it’s not a product we need huge volumes of but it will be a hit to NZ milling wheat self-sufficiency and it is a grain with good export potential too.” 

Since the storm Leadley has been spraying crops to try to prevent further losses from disease.

“Now, because of the hail damage, we’re spending money to try to save what we have left.

“It’s a tough call for farmers but a little more cost. If it fits the programme for fungicide it has a good chance of preventing some disease as a result of crop damage.”

Leadley said it is too early to put a figure on the losses.

“We are still assessing crops and working out where we are at and what we may be able to save, certainly the peas are a serious issue.

“Collectively, across Canterbury losses will be up there in the hundreds of thousands.”

As part of his assessment Leadley is having his crops checked out with a drone that uses specialised technology to detect damage right across the crop.

“That’s new technology we’re testing to assess crops with the big areas we grow in one paddock these days and especially with hail that tends to be particularly patchy.     

“So, really, it will be a few weeks and even into harvest before we know the true dollars of the losses. Yield will certainly be affected and even if it’s 10-15% down, that’s the profit.”

Leadley urged all growers to check their wheat carefully because all wheat in NZ is insured at $225 a tonne under the United Wheatgrowers levy order.

“It’s production cost but it’s there so I encourage all farmers with wheat to check their crops carefully because it is insured.” 

While claims are rolling in, insurers say it’s early days and it’s expected a lot of claims will be lodged in the next few weeks.     

FMG national claims manager Emma Town said about 157 claims, mostly from around South Canterbury have been received following the hail storms.

Very few claims have been lodged for crop damage yet, with just a handful so far connected with United Wheatgrowers. 

“We’re mindful that farmers will still be assessing damage to their property. 

“That said, we encourage all clients to lodge any claim with us as quickly as they can as the sooner we receive it the faster we can help people get back on track.” 

Of the claims to date more than 100 are for damage to motor vehicles with another 39 relating to buildings and contents.

Town said the storms are a timely reminder for everyone to check their insurance covers and ensure they have the right protection.

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