Hail insurance $3 million in BoP
Worst hit after the first storm were properties in the Welcome Bay–Papamoa area, particularly on Welcome Bay and Kairua Roads and Mangatawa. Some other areas also reported hail the size of marbles piled to a depth of more than 15cm with the storms lasting five to 10 minutes.
Exactly a week later, growers were again on high alert with more hail forecast.This time the worst hit areas were mainly around Whakatane and Edgecumbe, with serious damage fortunately limited to a small number of orchards.
Zespri's figures show one-third of the notified hail strikes from that storm were through parts of South Auckland with the rest in the Bay of Plenty.
More than 100 growers were affected.
Late last month Zespri had received hail notifications from 110 kiwifruit growers (including some in Nelson) and 70 of those were from the Bay of Plenty. By then 89 of the 110 orchards had been assessed. Of those, 54 were considered to have escaped severe canopy damage and should deliver a marketable crop next year. According to Zespri, the remaining 35 orchards assessed at that stage were likely to result in an insurance claim.
HAIL NETTING GIVES WAY
Seeka kiwifruit orchards were among the worst hit in the Bay of Plenty and Seeka's general manager growers, Simon Wells, said he had seen two properties where the hail netting installed had been unable to bear the load.
“There was still ice piled up in the net the following day. Some of the worst hit orchards were ones where young G3 vines were setting their first crop and that's particularly tough on those growers.”
Seeka's preliminary estimate is that they will have lost around 350,000 trays of kiwifruit, but they are committed to helping affected growers look after their vines.
“The key thing is to protect them against Psa because the disease will get into the plant where injuries occur. We have been carrying out protective spray programmes and now it's a matter of waiting to see how the vines respond. A lot depends on the extent of the damage. In some places only parts of an orchard have been affected and growers are soldiering on, hoping for a reasonable outcome.”
INSURANCE CLAIMS AROUND $3 MILLION
Zespri's insurance scheme covers losses up to a maximum of $12 million for the 2015 season, split evenly between Green and Gold plus other varieties. Claims from preliminary assessments were estimated at $3 million but the damage is still less than 1% of the total estimated crop volume.
Zespri has warned affected growers that while infection may occur when hail wounds are fresh, other symptoms may not show up until months later. Growers were advised to check the Canopy website (https://canopy.zespri.com) for advice on looking after hail damaged crops.
AVOCADO CROPS ALSO SUFFER
Some of Seeka's avocado orchards were also hit by the hail. Simon Wells said damage to mature fruit was minimal in most cases but on some orchards a lot of flowers had been knocked off and this would affect next year's crop.
At Te Puke, Trevelyan's avocado manager Daniel Birnie said he had seen avocados with cut skin and indentations which would make the fruit unmarketable, but overall the damage after the initial storm was less than 1% of their total crop.
“I have seen one orchard at Welcome Bay with quite serious damage and a kiwifruit orchard with its leaves shredded that has probably lost a quarter of its crop, but fortunately the damage here was not widespread.”
Short but severe hail storms in the Bay of Plenty on November 6 and 13 caused severe damage to some orchards and around 11 of those are likely to have their crops written off.
HAIL ADDS TO DROP IN PACK-OUT RATES
Avocado export pack-out rates already affected by severe gales a month earlier, plus frost in September, were expected to be further reduced by hail damage. Early in the season there were reports in the Bay of Plenty of crops with packouts close to 80% and even 90%. After the hail storms and gales however, at least one packhouse was reporting average export pack-outs as low as 67.5%.
Growers were warned that where mature fruit has been exposed to hail it might also develop peel bruising which could take a while to show up – first as small greyish spots which go black over time.
Jonathan Dixon, avocado business manager for Seeka, said trees which had lost all of their flowers and newly set fruit because of the hail would need to have their fertiliser programme adjusted.