Hail costs lettuce growers $80,000

A KEY salad ingredient grown locally is going to be sparse in the coming weeks after two of the Northern Rivers' four lettuce growers were taken out of action by last week's storm.

The hail caused $60,000 worth of damage to Pearson's Hydroponics at Brooklet, while Eltham grower Gary Ball was left $20,000 out of pocket.

“We got pretty hammered,” said Debbie Pearson, from the Brooklet operation.

“We had netting, but it was too much hail.”

She estimated that 70 per cent of the crop under netting had been damaged and the few tables that were out in the open were destroyed.

“It's the biggest storm we've had,” said Mrs Pearson. “We've been doing this for 15 years and never had anything like this happen.”

Mr Ball, who grows lettuce with the help of his wife and three children, said they lost about three-quarters of their 24,000 plants.

“It's put us back. Our sales are right down,” he said.

“Once they get hit they don't recover.

“We sell it all locally to quite a few shops in Lismore, Alstonville and Ballina, as well as the farmers markets in Lismore.

“We've got a few plants left, but will be out of production for six weeks.”

Mr Ball is also a local producer of Chinese vegetables and said this crop was badly damaged as well.

“We just threw the pak choy away,” he said.

Both producers are now cleaning up their operations and planting new crops.

“Lettuce grows quickly this time of year,” said Mrs Pearson. “We'll turn over a crop in five to six weeks.”



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