A month after a freak hailstorm that ripped through South Australia's Riverland, farmers are now dealing with the risk of a fruit fly outbreak due to the abundance of damaged fruit.
Instead of harvesting his eight-hectare apricot farm, Greg Pilgrim has been shaking scarred fruit from his trees and mulching the ruined produce.
"There's 20 tonnes of fruit on the ground and at $3 a kilo, it soon adds up," he said.
"It's pretty upsetting but I can't put it back.
"[Hail] leaves a big hole or a scar, and it becomes unsaleable."
In less than half an hour, the November 4 hail storm that hit Barmera, Monash, Glossop, and parts of Renmark shredded grape vines and potholed stone fruit, citrus, and nut crops.
"I was at the house talking to somebody and couldn't even hear the telephone...it was on the roof and then it got bigger and bigger," Mr Pilgrim said.
"I talked to the next door neighbour and he reckoned 90 to 100 per cent [of crop was damaged]; then I got PIRSA to come out and they agreed."
Around 130 growers were affected, with SA State Government figures estimating the value of crop losses to be over $23 million.
Outbreak risk escalated
On top of dealing with the financial burden of the hail storm, Riverland farmers are now preparing themselves for a second hit: a potential fruit fly outbreak, which could devastate the industry.
Member of the Riverland Fruit Fly Committee, Jason Size, said there was an "elevated risk" of outbreak due to the unusual amount of damaged fruit on the ground.
"If we can reduce the amount of host material available around the Riverland that could be attractive for fruit fly, that's the best thing we can do as an industry and as a region," he said.
"[Growers are] breaking up the fruit into as small pieces as possible so it can dry and become quite hard so it becomes more impenetrable for fruit fly to lay its eggs."
Almost 12 months ago there was an outbreak in the town of Loxton, estimated by the State Government to have cost $1.7 million.
Since the outbreak, the Government has established its "zero-tolerance approach", aiming to protect the Riverland's horticultural industries from interstate fruit fly.
The policy means travellers caught with fresh fruit in their vehicles are fined up to $375 if they try to cross the SA border at the Yamba Quarantine Station.
"By bringing a piece of fruit in from interstate, you risk our region, you risk our billion-dollar horticulture industry," Mr Size said.
Growers fear more outbreaks
The State Government said cleaning up hail damaged fruit was an important part of its fruit fly prevention strategy.
Of the six stone fruit growers who reported damage via the PIRSA hotline, four are receiving clean-up help.
"We have to act at every corner and respond to fruit that could be a host to fruit fly," Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said.
"Any fruit that is a host for fruit fly is a risk."
The State Government has spent $42,000 on contracting workers to help clean up the fruit, as well as around $350,000 on managing a fruit fly outbreak at Lindsay Point, a town on the state's border with Victoria.
"It's all a financial package ... picking the fruit, cleaning up the orchards is also a financial strain on growers if we haven't got PIRSA there helping out," Mr Whetstone said.
Fruit fly freedom
The Riverland is one of two internationally recognised pest-free areas in the country, which means growers enjoy advantages on the export market.
Mr Pilgrim said maintaining South Australia's fruit fly-free status was one of the most important things for his industry.
"Some countries won't let you import if you've got fruit fly," he said.
"We're free, so we can go anywhere in the world at the moment [so] if we get it here, it's going to cost us billions and billions of dollars."
Mr Size agreed that market access acquired by being pest-free was integral to South Australian horticultural industries.
"Going through a hailstorm event, you become very dejected, very depressed," he said.
"It's very hard to think 'okay, I actually need to clean this up because of fruit fly'."ABC