• A freak hail storm on Sunday caused extensive damage to farms in the Lowveld.
  • One farm has lost the equivalent of 30,000 cartons of citrus.
  • Entire blocks of citrus have been wiped out by the large hail stones.

A freak hailstorm hit the Lowveld area in Mpumalanga on Sunday. Farmers were still tallying up the cost of the losses by Wednesday.

Willie van Aardt, general manager of Farm Whisky, a citrus farm outside Komatipoort, estimates the storm destroyed the equivalent of about 30,000 cartons of citrus.

"We are still waiting on the insurance company to come quantify the damage, then we can know what to do further," he told Business Insider.

According to Van Aardt, they were 20% into their harvest that started on 15 April and set to end in August.

"We were preparing for our next harvest, which would have been in four weeks," he said.

The global fresh produce information platform Freshplaza.com reports that entire blocks of citrus have been wiped out by the large hail stones. Grapefruit, valencia oranges and soft fruit were destroyed. Mango and lychee trees were also affected.Hailstorms at this time of year are extremely rare in the Lowveld. According to the South African Weather Service (SAWS), the storm is believed to have started in Carolina, almost 236km away from Komatipoort. However, farms in Mbombela, which sits between the two towns were not affected.

"We just had a little bit of drizzle," says Christo Hattingh from the Crocodile River Estate, a citrus farm outside of Mbombela. "We were hit severely [by hail] last year December, for the first time in 44 years," he says.

The hailstorm also hit Alkmaar, Mara, Tekwane, KaNyamazane, Malalane, the Kruger National Park (Skukuza) and Hazyview. Houses and cars were damaged. The Lowvelder reports that a 67-year old man from Pienaar was killed in the storm. 

The hail on the ground. Source: Carolize Jansen (www.freeplaza.com)

The large Mataffin farm of the fruit producer and processor Halls was not affected by the storm. "You can never really prepare for a hailstorm," said Halls spokesperson, Lee Green. 

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