Extent of localised damage still unclear

Hail over Langkloof damages topfruit orchards

A week ago a hailstorm hit the Langkloof, just ten days after an earlier hailstorm. By now most topfruit producers in the Langkloof have some hail damage, whether incurred during the first or the second storm. Producers and exporters are reticent to quantify the extent of hail damage at this stage, but it varies widely, with reports of farms with losses of up to 60% or 70%.

As hail storms go, this one’s effect was very localised – on one part of his farm a large topfruit producer of the Langkloof estimates 30% damage, at the other end only 3%. It appears to have concentrated on the lower, western end of the Langkloof, around Krakeel and Joubertina, while an apple farm at Louterwater (which is very close to Krakeel) reports no hail damage.

Gysbert du Toit, marketing manager of Dutoit Agri, which has large-scale investments in the Langkloof, confirms that their farms suffered minimal damage at levels which are wholly manageable.

Hortgro’s amended topfruit estimate, which will reflect the damage in the Langkloof, is imminent.

The silver lining to the dark hail cloud is the rain that the Langkloof has been receiving over the past three weeks, which has pushed the levels of the Kouga Dam up towards 12% (a godsend to the citrus farmers of the Gamtoos Valley) and recent cool nights and sunny days have intensified colour development on apples and Forelle pears. 

Red varieties are due to be harvested from next week onwards, as apple producers wrap up the Royal Gala harvest. Golden Delicious is also next in the line-up, while release dates for Forelle have not yet been received.

Sizing has been affected by climatic conditions, not only nor perhaps even mainly because of the drought, but because of a warm winter and cool spring in the Langkloof.

Netting in the Langkloof
Topfruit orchards under netting still make up the minority of orchards in the Langkloof, where netting’s primary function is to protect against sunburn. Some producers are still in two minds about the benefits of netting, weighing up the protection it would afford in a hail storm such as this, against its possible adverse effect on aspects like colour development and sizing, not to mention the cost of netting.

Anecdotally, it seems as if the incidence of hail in the Langkloof has increased over the past few years.

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