Hail damage leaves SA vineyards, orchards are still rebuilding a year later

A year after a freak hailstorm, farmers in parts of South Australia are still counting their losses.

The October 28 storm cell last year was declared an “insurance disaster” by the Insurance Council of Australia, with more than 60,000 claims in three states.

Heathvale Wines owner Trevor March said he lost 100% of his Eden Valley harvest almost instantly.

“I lost about $120,000 in seven minutes…and we don’t insure against hail – it’s prohibitively expensive,” he said.

The storm made the properties look like a winter wonderland.(Provided: Trevor March)

While initially trying to smile and put up with it, Mr March said he later realized the disaster had shocked him.

“It had a mental effect [on me],” he said.

“And then that afternoon we had these high winds. Everything that had been bruised in the morning broke in the afternoon.

“It looked like someone ran through a combine harvester and just ransacked the place.”

A close up of a pile of hailstones outside a house.
It has been a year since an intense hailstorm damaged several properties and wineries in the Barossa Valley.(Provided: Trevor March)

slow recovery

Laughing Jack Wines owner Shawn Kalleske said he was still repairing his property in the Barossa Valley a year after hailstorms wiped out 50% of his crop.

“We kind of hobbled for the last 12 months,” he said.

The sixth-generation farmer said he was bottling wine when the storm hit.

“I thought to myself, ‘Is this hail? Surely not. I was not aware of any forecast,'” he said.

A netting to protect crops is torn and damaged next to a dirt road
Mr. Arnold says the nets in his orchards have been shredded like Halloween cobwebs by the 150 km/h winds.(ABC News: Eliza Berlage)

Riverland producer Ryan Arnold would rather not remember the day 150-mile-per-hour winds left the nets of his family’s citrus orchards in Pyap “ragged like Halloween cobwebs “.

“It pretty much went through the center of our property – I was just sitting in the office watching it unfold,” he said.

Mr Arnold said he was grateful the state government had provided funds to help with the cleanup.

Ryan Arnold, a white male, wearing a blue shirt and shorts, stands in a citrus orchard with a yellow Labrador.
Ryan Arnold says crop loss and repotting his orchards cost his family business dearly.(Rural ABC: Eliza Berlage)

“It happened pretty quickly, which was really helpful,” he said.

“I was also able to access the anti-hail net grant, with a co-contribution.

“It certainly helped lighten the load, but it was a significant cost to our business.”

A white man, Mr. Arnold, stands next to a citrus tree wearing a blue shirt smiling
Mr. Arnold says the quality of his fruit was reduced as a result of the storm.(Rural ABC: Eliza Berlage)

But Mr Arnold said hail damage and having his fruit exposed while awaiting rethreading reduced the quality of his oranges by around 20%.

Mr. Sidhu, a white man with gray hair stands in an almond orchard in a blue shirt.
Mr Sidhu says he can claim hail insurance for crop loss.(Rural ABC: Eliza Berlage)

Century Orchards managing director Brendan Sidhu said it took a few weeks to clear the Loxton almond orchard after it was hit by golf ball-sized hail.

“The trees really looked like they had been beaten down, but it was also a very stressful time for management and staff,” he said.

However, Mr Sidhu said he was more optimistic about returns this year than he was then.

A close up of furry green furry almonds in an orchard
Mr Sidhu said he had lost fewer almonds than he initially thought.(Rural ABC: Eliza Berlage)

“We thought we had lost around 50% of some of our orchards, but I think it’s more likely around 20%,” he said.

Mr Sidhu said he planned to claim hail insurance to help cover the loss, it would not be an option in the future.

In a statement, the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) said more than $9 million had been disbursed in disaster recovery grants – jointly funded through the Disaster Recovery Funding Agreements. sinister Commonwealth and States.

This amount was split between the primary producer recovery grants and the waste disposal program.

“The subsidies [of up to $10,000] and the Waste Disposal Program provided short-term assistance to help growers resume production as quickly as possible,” the statement read.

“Producers have reported difficulty accessing labor to help clean up.”

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