Hail storm damages crops

Grape growers surrounding Griffith remain resolute after a shocking and unprecedented deluge of hail thrashed their vines on Monday.

The storm hit at about 2pm in the afternoon, and while the town of Griffith avoided the pelting, grape farms were hit heavily, and some more than others.

Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board’s Chief Executive Officer Brian Simpson and Extension Officer Brian Bertolin were canvassing the farms on Tuesday to assess the damage, and say the full extent of the loss won’t be known for another two weeks.

“It’s a bit early to go into the extent of the damage, but on one side of the crop, possibly up to 50 per cent of the crop could be lost. Some bunches are going black, some are cut off, and others the wind has broken off,” Mr Simpson said.

“The farm that we visited this morning had vines that were just stripped, no leaves, no bunches, and all that was left was half of the other side,” Mr Bertolin said.

Mr Simpson said hail at this time of the year is definitely unusual, as farmers are expecting frosts.

Tim Bavaresco’s Thompson Road farm was one of the properties hit, and says he is ‘devastated’ about the damage, however hopes he can come back from it.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my years here.”

Mr Bavaresco and his wife were only looking at the crops that morning thinking they were looking good, then at about 2pm he said it started, and “you could pick the hail up with a shovel,” he said.

Mr Bertolin said Mr Bavaresco’s area experienced mid-scale damage comparatively, with roughly 20 to 30 per cent loss, which could possibly be compensated from the other side of the vines.

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“We’ve been to around six or seven farms so far, and we hope some of them can compensate to some degree, because all of the vine and the root system is still there,” Mr Bertolin said.

Other farms have had even worse luck.

“One grower sent me a photo of his backyard - it was just white, he was absolutely shattered. He was expecting a reasonable crop, and prices could possibly go up this year as well, now this happens and it’s just devastating,” Mr Bertolin said.

“I’m not too happy, but you can’t do anything about it, you have to expect things like this, but its devastating especially when the crop was looking so good,” concluded Mr Bavaresco.