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Reports of complete loss of the early summer harvest on some vegetable farms

Devastating hail over the pantry of Gauteng, South Africa

A particularly severe hailstorm that hit the important vegetable production area of Tarlton (Gauteng Province) yesterday has left massive damage that might force some farmers to go under. On some farms the entire early summer harvest was lost, particularly lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes and carrots that were due to go to market soon. Tunnels and infrastructure, as well as housing on some farms have been devastated.

Around Bapsfontein (Gauteng) and Delmas (Mpumalanga), where there is also substantial vegetable production, a tornado swept through leaving centre pivots “bent like toothpicks”. 

The storm not only affected agricultural production. Five people were killed as heavy structures collapsed due to strong winds and more than a hundred people are homeless, particularly those living in informal settlements as winds blew off roofs and walls gave in. 

Elsewhere in the country the weather is similarly tempestuous. Snow is falling over the Eastern Cape and Lesotho and in Durban there is today a massive storm, with more than 300 schools in KwaZulu-Natal damaged by storms and flooding. In the southern and eastern Free State there are reports of hundreds of livestock dying of the cold.

Market agents expect that the true effect of the hail in Gauteng will be felt within the coming days as farmers either try to salvage what they can and harvest everything at once before it starts rotting in the wet fields, which means that there could be a glut of certain items of produce on the market. Otherwise a shortage is possible from farms that have lost all production.

“It looks very bad and we were so positive before because of the good early rains we’ve been having,” a grower told FreshPlaza. “It’s a sorry day for Tarlton which is the pantry of Gauteng.”

The summer rainfall areas of South Africa have thus far received as much as 100mm of rain in some parts, approximately a month earlier than usual.

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