Hail damage devastates Canterbury vegetable crops

Brian Leadley looks at damage to the pea crop on his mid-Canterbury property. - Photo: Supplied

An intense hailstorm in South Canterbury and mid-Canterbury this week caused widespread damage to crops, including vegetables destined for the home and international markets.

Hailstones the size of golfballs and driving rain pelted down on Wednesday afternoon.

The extent of damage from the storm has raised the prospect of higher vegetable prices.

Some farmers are reporting up to half of their crops were damaged.

Federated Farmers Arable Industry Group vice chairman Brian Leadley farms near Ashburton, mid-Canterbury, and said peas, sweet corn and potatoes in the early stages of growth have been particularly hard hit.

Mr Leadley told Nine to Noon milling wheat produced for the bread industry had also been damaged.

"A large part of that is into the domestic market, particularly the peas we grow as well as sweet corn and potatoes both domestic and export, I believe have been particularly hard hit.

"Just the stage those potatoes were at; a lot of them had just come up through the ground nice and softly. A lot of that leaf has been stripped off."

Mr Leadley said the extent of the damage would depend on how advanced the crops were in terms of ripening.

Brian Leadley checking hail damage at his mid-Canterbury property.

Brian Leadley checking hail damage at his mid-Canterbury property. Photo: Supplied

On his own property, the pea crop is just one month from harvest, and the storm bruised the plants badly.

"It's just been chopped right off by the hail storm."

Bruised plants were more vulnerable to diseases and fungi so farmers wouild have to spend more money on protecting those that remain.

Mr Leadley said farmers didn't often buy insurance for crops because it was expensive, though wheat is protected by a compulsory levy paid throughout the industry.

Another farmer estimated that some farmers were facing 20 to 30 percent of their crops affected, though at least some may have suffered damage to half.

"On average that could be $50,000 to $100,000 damage on an average cropping farm, depending on the crop mix."

Yesterday, Federated Farmers South Canterbury Chairman Colin Hurst told RNZ the damage depended on the age and type of crop.

Mr Hurst said the hail had a pretty direct path so only sections of farms were damaged.

Farms closest to Timaru were likely to have been the most badly affected, he said.