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Extent of damage still unclear; late cultivar plums and Abate Fetel pears primarily affected

Localised wind and hail damage over southwestern Cape

On Monday evening a heavy downpour of around 30mm fell within the space of 10 minutes in the Tulbagh area of the Western Cape. The deluge of rain was accompanied by very strong winds which blew fruit off trees. It is reported that primarily Abate Fetel pears and late cultivar plums were affected. 

Damage is, however, very localised within the area. Reports on the extent of the damage vary, estimated at as much as 50% of the plum and pear harvest on some farms to the north of Tulbagh in the crook of the Winterhoek Mountains, but on other farms in this district no damage at all occurred. 

Plums blown off by strong winds in a Tulbagh orchard (photos supplied by Agri Western Cape)

Yesterday late afternoon a hail storm moved over various parts of the southwestern Cape with reports of some topfuit farms in the Ceres area experiencing damage of up to 80%, even 100% in some blocks, but FreshPlaza has been unable to confirm these reports. The various Koue Bokkeveld fruit and vegetable producers to whom FreshPlaza spoke reported no hail damage and just 5 to 10mm of rain.

Outside Stellenbosch a quick hail storm, lasting about five minutes, moved over the area, doing some damage to plum orchards which, fortunately, have been 90% harvested. A plum packer says that hail stones were as large as dove’s eggs but only here and there fruit were hit. “It wasn’t carpet bombing, it was precision bombing,” he quips. “So we didn’t lose more than 10% of the fruit. In the area most farmers estimate damage at between 5% and 10%.”

Orchards under water after the deluge of rain in the Tulbagh area

The South African Weather Bureau reports 15mm of rain at Excelsior Ceres and 16mm in Robertson yesterday. Temperatures are high and the atmosphere is humid. 39°C was measured at Paarl yesterday, 41°C at Clanwilliam. The drought has by no means been broken; in areas that received rain producers will win a few days on their irrigation schedule and cooler temperatures are a boost to colour development.

Industry bodies like Agri Western Cape and Hortgro are currently assessing the damage wrought by the wind, hail and flooding throughout the province. On some farms telephone lines have been damaged by the storm.

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