Orchardists are counting the cost of a massive storm which has damaged cherries, stone fruit and apples across the Orange region.
The hailstorm, which struck just after midnight on Friday morning, dumped 20 millimetres of rain in just 14 minutes as recorded by the official weather station at Orange Regional Airport.
Orchardist Peter West was one of the hardest hit, with cherries struck at his two properties on Canobolas Road and at Nashdale.
“We’ve got two properties a fair way apart and it’s the first time both have been hit by the same storm,” he said.
It wasn’t just rain. It was a really severe hail storm. South of Orange and west of Orange it covered the ground.Orchardist Guy Gaeta
Mr West said he was now assessing what fruit could be salvaged after the storm, which he labeled the ‘midnight special.’
“What we’re doing is we’re concentrating on picking the eastern side of the trees,” he said.
He said the only financial compensation from government he was aware of was low interest loans.
Orchardist and the president of Cherry Growers NSW for Orange Fiona Hall said the damage was widespread.
MAP: Nashdale, home to many of the Orange region’s orchards …
“[There was] a fair bit of damage. There is no property that wasn’t affected,” she said.
“It will affect whether [farmers] pick it or not.”
Mrs Hall said they were assessing the extent of damage to fruit on her property.
Work at the packing shed at the property, Carnaervon, was in full swing on Sunday as fruit came in from across the district.
Orchardist Guy Gaeta said he feared the worst for the region’s growers when he saw the storm dumping hail, but said his own property had escaped serious damage.
“Everybody is assessing the situation. We’ve got most of ours covered, that helped us a lot,” he said.
“It wasn’t just rain. It was a really severe hail storm. South of Orange and west of Orange it covered the ground.”
He said farmers would leave damaged fruit on the trees for the birds as it was not economic to take it off.
Thornbrook Orchard’s pick-your-own fruit farm spokeswoman Paula Charnock said they also suffered some damage to cherries and stone fruit.
“The cherries are not going to be too bad. They are pretty resilient. There are a few split ones,” she said.
Mrs Charnock said they would leave the cherries on the trees and explain the situation to customers.
“Because we are pick your own it is an education thing for people. We’ll have to educate people there is nothing wrong with the fruit,” she said.
“If you’re sending fruit to market or for export the tolerance for marked fruit is much less.”
She said they would thin-out the damaged peaches, apricots and plums but most of their apples were protected under netting.
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