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"some plots can be completely discarded"

Hail hits Dutch fruit growers hard right before harvest

For a long time, fruit growers in the Netherlands seemed to manage to evade the hail, but last night - right before the harvest - severe weather passed over the country from the southwest to the northeast, with heavy local thunderstorms, heavy winds and big hailstones. In Zeeland, West-Brabant and the Betuwe, this resulted in huge local damage. For the fruit growers affected, it's a drama, because most of them were to begin harvesting fruit this week or the next. When the crops dry, the total damage will become clear later today, but it's certain that a large area has been affected.

Hail damage insurance company OFH has received the first reports since 7 AM on Monday, Gert Jan van Dijk says: "So far, most of the reports have come from top fruit growers. Just before picking, these growers' harvests were destroyed within fifteen minutes or half an hour last night. There's great devastation among the growers."

According to the insurer, damages vary: "Reports are coming in from growers from Zeeland to Overbetuwe, and damage varies from lightly affected to impact, with hail going through the skin. In the latter case, the fruit has become pretty much worthless. The full extent of the damage is not yet known. It will take a few days anyway before the hail damage of the fruits becomes fully apparent. Only then will we start with the valuations."

The fruit growers are almost ready to start harvesting, and more bad weather is expected for tonight. "Today the temperature is heading towards 30 degrees again, and there's still a lot of energy in the atmosphere."

This plot in Zeeland was hit hard

At insurance company Interpolis, phones have been ringing continuously this morning. Hail, water and thunderstorms caused major damage last night. Last week, with the whirlwind, horticulture was spared. "This weekend some companies really bore the brunt," notes Adri Witlox, head of the agricultural bureau at Interpolis. "Between Saturday and Sunday, we got many reports from Veghel and Uden. Last night, mainly the Bommelerwaard was affected." An indication can't be given yet. "But this concerns thousands of glass panes."

Hailstones as big as eggs

"The damage ranges from plots without any damage at all, to plots that can be completely discarded," says fruit grower Marc André de la Porte from Dreumel, also chairman of the circle Middle-Netherlands, which also has hail damage. He says the scope of the damage is particularly severe: "Every year, there's a company that suffers hail damage, but you seldom see it affect such a large area. All in all, this causes enormous damage. From Zeeland to West-Brabant and the land of Maas and Waal, there was a great storm. Damage in the Zaltbommel and Haaften region is also very big, although it differs from plot to plot."

Jack van Wijk of Veiling Zaltbommel confirms this: "It's been a great storm here in the Zaltbommel region. Here at the auction, the hailstones came straight through the roof panels of the packing warehouse and auction room. Car windows were also broken, and there's lots of crazy stories. Our greenhouse strawberry and bell pepper growers mention many broken windows, and we're also getting lots of reports from the top fruit growers."

Fruit grower Rinus van 't Westeinde from Nisse was just taking stock of his Jonagold plot this morning. "It appears we managed to evade it, after searching for a long time, I was able to find some damaged fruit. We have quite a few hail cannons around here, and the hail that fell, was quickly gone again. A neighbour appears to be affected more heavily, and in the Betuwe I also hear from growers with damage. But to really assess the damage, the fruit has to dry first. This afternoon, we'll be able to assess the definitive damage."

His colleague Martijn Slabbekoorn from Kapelle also remains cautious. "It's all still very fresh, and at first glance the damage doesn't seem too bad, but when the sun starts shining, the first cracks will appear, and then it could be worse than it seemed. Now we're seeing a few damaged pieces of fruit, but the actual damage will become apparent this afternoon. I think we're lucky that the hailstones that fell were large. In cases of a hailstorm with a high density of little stones, pretty much every piece of fruit is damaged."

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