Up to 90% Goulburn Valley pear crop, 40% apples hail affected

Up to 90% of Australia’s Goulburn Valley pear crop, and 40% of the apple crop may have been affected by this week’s highly localized hail event in Victoria, but more assessment will be carried out in the next five weeks to determine how much of the budding fruit, due to hit stores in January, might be affected. “We need to wait to see the full extent of the damage,” says Tony Filippi, Industry Development Officer for Fruit Growers Victoria, who chaired the meeting, which included state parliamentarians, and representatives from peak industry bodies. “We’ve dealt with this in the past, some crop will be blemished, but we might also say that nationally, we’ve got enough fruit out there, and growers can apply for a slight variation to grading specifications.”

Growers who play their cards right will be able to work together, and coordinate the efforts of packhouses and resellers of grade fruit consistently, and achieve a better return than if more fruit is automatically downgraded, Mr Filippi says. “There will be a slight shift in specifications, and a coordinated marketing effort to explain why the fruit looks the way it does when it hits the shelves. It could be a real boost for grower return if the consumer understands why they’re getting slightly blemished or odd shaped fruit.” Repeat sales are what will help growers, Mr Filippi adds, rather than trying to charge too high a price to consumers.

Top of the list of questions from growers who were hit by the isolated hail belt was ‘can retailers sell my fruit? If they can, will they keep buying it and sell it for a decent return?’ says Mr Filippi. “With early stonefruit that was around 50% maturity we have another 6-8 weeks to go. That’s pretty well advanced, but pears and apples are only small fingernail size, still in the cell-division stage and very susceptible to damage.” 
Around 40 people, at least 25 of whom were growers, were present at last night’s meeting to discuss the impact of a hailstorm on the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley region. The meeting group also heard a presentation from an academic at Monash University about how to spot weather patterns form radar images, to give growers the best chance to prepare for future hail events.

For more information

Tony Filippi, Industry Development Officer
Fruit Growers Victoria (FGV)
Phone: +61400795539

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