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Australia: Mother Nature knocks down Queensland fruit farmers again

The storm that annihilated the Francis family's peach and nectarine orchard came and went in 20 furious minutes. In that short time, however, the squash-ball sized hail it dumped has left the family with losses totalling $2 million.

"A couple more weeks and we would have had all the fruit off the trees," said Shane Francis, a third-generation stone fruit farmer from storm-ravaged Kumbia, in the South Burnett region. "But two weeks into a six-week pick and we've probably lost 80 percent. It's a lot of money."

Francis said his family had been looking forward to a bumper crop before super-cell storms and tornadoes lashed southern Queensland on Thursday. After losing part of their crop to severe storms on Boxing Day last year, it was a welcome sight to see their trees heavy with high-quality fruit.

The family will spend the rest of Friday cleaning up their packing shed after its windows were shattered, sending shards of glass into their sorting machine. He said his family doesn't want handouts, but would welcome government support in the form of cheap loans, especially given they opted not to take out costly insurance this year.

"We produce $90,000 [worth of fruit] a hectare, and they would only insure us for $30,000 a hectare so the bill was going to be $65,000. This is the first time we haven't been insured in 20 to 25 years just because of the cost of it."



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