On 12 March, heavy hailstorms caused considerable damage to soft fruit in Langkloof.
The extent of the hail damage is still being determined, but, according to Bokkie Kritzinger, some orchards have suffered a 100% loss. Kritizinger is the chairperson of the South African Langkloof agricultural association. Langkloof is situated in the Eastern Cape.
“What we have learned from this, is that we will never again establish new orchards without netting,” he says. “In those places where we did have nets set up, the hail did not penetrate. So, 100% damage was prevented on the trees that did have fruit on them. Most of our nets were, however, spanned over young trees.”
“This was also a good test to see how well the draping nets would hold up. The first evaluation shows that the fruit right against the nets was damaged. However, those deeper in the trees were well-protected,” explains Kritzinger.
From 10% to 100%
The damage varies from 10% to 100% in different areas. Kritzinger says harvesting was completed in about 50% of the area. However, there were still high-value cultivates, such as Forelle pears, and Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples hanging on the trees.
Hail also caused significant damage to the are in the previous season. This is besides the 40% water restriction that is still in place for the region. Or the frost that caused damage in some areas earlier this season. Kritzinger thinks a good marketer will be of great value to them. They need to get the timing of the marketing of these soft fruits just right.
“We will certainly consider marketing the hail-damaged fruit later in the season. That is when the supply starts dwindling. Prices for juicing fruit is also, at least, slightly higher. So, everything is not lost,” Bokkie continues.
Koo and Montagu valleys also suffered
On the same night, a hail storm hit the Montagu and Koo valleys in the Western Cape too. Here, it reduced almost all the Golden Delicious apples to juicing grade. According to Daniel Rossouw, major damaged was caused throughout both regions. Daniel is the Koo Farmers’ Association chairperson.
“We have not yet harvested the Forelle pears to determine their damage. There will, however, definitely be damage,” he says. “As things stand, it does not seem like we will be exporting any Golden Delicious apples.”
He says nets have not been placed anywhere in the Koo valley. However, after this hail storm, this will become a more important consideration. “We suffer more from frost in this area. The hot weather also still has us firmly in its grip,” Rossouw concludes.