STRETCHED TO LIMIT: Hail at a blueberry farm in Woolgoolga.
STRETCHED TO LIMIT: Hail at a blueberry farm in Woolgoolga. Contributed

Blueberry farm slammed by hailstorm

THE storm season has begun with a bang, or rather a few bangs, after large hail stones battered the region just last week, leaving destruction behind.

It's a yearly nightmare for the local farmers, with storm damage potentially costing hefty amounts.

Just after the recent hailstorm in particular, a local blueberry farm was hit hard with tonnes of hail piling up in the netting, damaging plants below as well as the on-farm infrastructure.

Oz Group Chairman, Gurmesh Singh, said the particular farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, was left devastated.

"This is going to become a problem as the storm season sets in. We're lucky the hailstorm didn't spread out to too many farms," he said.

"The problem is, the hail collects in the nets which then forms this massive collection of hail that can damage the netting, and when you've got two or three tonnes of hail it affects the plants underneath.

"The hail hit in a small concentrated area, causing a lot of damage for a particular farmer. Usually you can't tell if the berries have been damaged until a couple of weeks down the track. When the berries start ripening, the damage will show.

"Smaller hail stones tend to cut through the netting which can be even more damaging."

Back in October of 2015, a severe hailstorm saw the State Government offer Natural Disaster Relief to farmers in Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley after a storm caused millions of dollars of damage to blueberry crops.

At the time, Oz Group estimated the hail had wreaked havoc on up to 15-20 of its farms, costing between $2.5 to 3 million.

The Advocate reported the damage bill across all farms on the Coffs Coast climbed above $30 million. Oz Group Chief Executive Kamaldeep Singh said the Oz Group were required to spend up to $20,000 per hectare to replace netting on their farms.