WILD STORMS DESTROY FARMS
By JANE GARDNER
TULLERA farmers Jeff and Tracey Zanette lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of fruit in Saturday's wild storms ? with no hope of ever getting the money back.
"It's like when someone dies," Tracey said.
"The grief hits home straight away, but it will continue to hit home when the bills start coming in."
The Zanettes have 28 hectares on which they grow bananas, avocados, nectarines and mangoes.
On Saturday, the storm cut a swathe through their property and neighbouring farms, taking with it their livelihoods.
None of the farms were insured against hail damage.
State MP for Lismore Thomas George is pushing for the worst-hit areas to be declared a natural disaster zone, but said this was unlikely to make much difference for the farmers.
"That's another issue, and the farmers should find out if they are eligible for loans through the Department of Primary Industries," he said.
Almost every tree on the Zanettes' farm was ravaged by giant hailstones and high winds, leaving 90 per cent of their crop scattered across the ground or hanging uselessly on the trees. This includes about 1000 avocados, 300 mangoes, two large netted areas of nectarines and 14ha of bananas.
"We're looking at a couple of hundred thousand dollars' worth of damage, and at least three to four years before we can get on top of this lot," Mr Zanette said.
"Now we have to find the money to keep paying wages.
"It's a Catch-22. You can't afford to keep the workers on, but you can't do all the work yourself."
Crops cannot be insured so, like many other farmers in the Modanville area, the Zanettes will be forced to borrow money to start again.
Their neighbours, Nancy and Lindsay Daley, also lost 80 to 90 per cent of their avocado and custard apple crop on their 8ha property to hail and wind damage.
The avocados were due for harvesting from April to June next year, and the custard apples had just begun to flower nicely.
Another Tullera farmer, Jeff Larsson, lost the mangoes off 500 trees, his banana and macadamia crops were substantially damaged, and he will need to repair sections of fencing damaged by fallen trees.
"We'll be OK because our sweet potatoes will come back, but there are other farmers in this area who are a lot worse off and will have very little income for the next 12 months," he said.