Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 03/02/2004, pg. 9

VEGETABLE growers on the Granite Belt are counting the cost of severe hailstorms which last week wiped out millions of dollars worth of crops, prolonging an already short supply of summer vegetables.

Hailstorms swept through orchards, vineyards and crops last Thursday and again on Friday.

Applethorpe DPI senior extension horticulturist Alex Banks said the second wave of more intensive hailstorms destroyed up to 100 per cent of vegetable crops at Severnlea, Glen Aplin, Mount Tully and Sugarloaf.

Further south, Wallangarra and Ballandean had large hailstones which pounded vineyards but crop losses were minimal because the hail was scattered, he said. Stone fruit damage was minimised by hail netting on most orchards.

For consumers, the already high prices of lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, capsicum and zucchini were likely to continue but would not move any higher, Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers CEO Jan Davis said.

Frost damage in Victoria pushed prices higher and the storm damage in Queensland, combined with reduced plantings due to continuing drought, meant prices would remain high for several more weeks, she said.

Granite Belt farmers will bear the brunt of at least $4 million in losses because vegetable crops cannot be insured against hail damage.

Tony and Angela Lofaro, who have two properties, were in the path of both hailstorms and their damage bill is more than $200,000.

Mr Lofaro said capsicums and tomatoes were wiped out on Thursday and more tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant on Friday.

“We had been picking capsicums for three weeks and we had 10,000 boxes of capsicums ready to pick,” he said. “They were worth at least $160,000 before you count the tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplant.”

Pickers yesterday were salvaging capsicums which escaped the hail.
Mr Lofaro said he would plant beans and snow peas and hoped to harvest them before winter set in.

At Amiens, Ray and Connie Taylor lost $250,000 of lettuce and cauliflower in a hailstorm.

“The only good thing was the dams are half-full so we’ve got enough water for 18 months.”

Copyright 2004 / Courier Mail