Primary producers affected by a severe hailstorm in the Northern Rivers area last week are now eligible for Natural Disaster Relief Assistance, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said.

The hailstorm caused at least $3 million damage on many properties on 22 October between Tregeagle and Suffolk Park.

“A large storm cell moved in a north-easterly direction through the area,” Mr Macdonald said.

“This hailstorm damaged many horticultural crops and nurseries, as well as associated infrastructure in the area.

“Unfortunately, crops of various stone fruits and blueberries were in the process of being harvested at the time of the storm.

“Ten properties were visited by a DPI horticulturist the next day to help determine the extent of the damage – and these alone had 50-60 per cent of their fruit damaged by hail.

“The cost of lost fruit on these properties was estimated at more than $1 million, in addition to the large amounts of damage to netting and other infrastructure.

“The total cost of lost fruit and infrastructure in the region is estimated at a minimum of $3 million.

“This figure doesn’t include significant plant losses to tree crops such as macadamia, custard apples and avocado plants which were flowering or had small fruit – these are hard to assess.”

Mr Macdonald said affected landholders could now apply for Natural Disaster Relief Assistance through the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593.

“The assistance comes in the form of loans of up to $130,000, at 2.85 per cent interest per annum with a two-year interest-free and repayment-free period,” he said.

“These loans provide working capital to help producers replace or repair infrastructure.”

To be eligible, growers must demonstrate they are in urgent need of assistance, and that they earn the majority of their income from primary production.