On Boxing Day 2020 the small town of Motueka located in New Zealand’s hop producing heartland was hit by a freak hailstorm.
Two week later farmers are still calculating not only the impact on their crops, but also the financial impact of the storm. Losses have been estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.
Motueka, situated in the Tasman region at the top of New Zealand’s south island, saw the worst hailstorm the area has seen rip through the region. Hailstones the size of grapes were reported with some areas witnessing a ground coating of 100mm thick.
Some orchards have reported a lost of up to 80-100% of their crops from the fields hit by the storm.
The Tasman area, along with neighbouring Nelson, is well known throughout the brewing world for their hop production.
Talking to Stuff.co.nz, Brent McGlashen of Mac Hops says, “It’s the worst hail storm this area has ever seen.” continuing “We’re just happy it wasn’t the whole area that got hit, if it was all out in Taawera as well that would be very bad for the New Zealand brand.”
McGlashen said the damage might not be obvious to the casual observer as the season progresses, because leaves may grow back on the vines. But new growth that would normally lead to hops being harvested in March had been “ripped off”, leading to, at best, a “serious yield reduction”. Even vines that retained healthy leaf growth had had “95 per cent” of the productive branching tips pulverised.
Mac Hops are part of the hop growing consortium New Zealand Hops. The co-operative consists of 28 hop farms, fortunately only 6 of which were hit hard by the storm.
New Zealand Hops Chief Executive Craig Orr explained that it was still too early to tell the full extent of the damage and that a more accurate assessment of the damage would require a “row-by-row inspection” that would take some time to complete “It is a bit of a disaster for Motueka. There’s a few hectares that have just been stripped, there’s nothing there.”
Early reports suggest the Riwaka and Nelson Sauvin crops have been the hardest hit. So what does this mean for next years crop? New Zealand Hops are still expecting to be able to fulfill any contractual obligations, but don’t expect there to be any surplus product available this coming season.