12 May 2009

Heavy kiwifruit losses expected after hail storm

3:57 pm on 12 May 2009

The kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty is facing heavier fruit losses than first predicted.

The first of two severe hail storms on Monday was confined to a coastal strip from Maketu to Mount Maunganui, where most orchards had already harvested fruit.

The second hail storm hit the region about 5.30pm, battering orchards from Te Puke to Whakatane and Opotiki.

The president of the kiwifruit grower organisation, Peter Ombler, says the second storm swept through a much more extensive area, where much of the crop is still on the vines.

Zespri says the hail storms will not have any immediate impact on its export programme, which is in full swing after an early start.

The company's corporate and grower services director, Carol Ward, says it may have to adjust its crop management plan, which is designed to match supply with demand in overseas markets, once the full extent of fruit loss is known.

In the meantime, Zespri is urging growers whose orchards were battered in the storms to register for the grower-funded hail insurance scheme that the industry operates.