Heat threatens grape crop

In Victoria, Premier John Brumby has alerted the state for the ‘worst fire day in history’ on Saturday, with temperatures again reaching into the mid 40s, plus strong northerly winds.

In the far south of NSW, growers are already predicting up to 80pc of their harvest has been destroyed by the heat, equating to losses of $100 million across the national wine industry.

Widespread industry job cuts are now expected as fewer grapes mean less work for pickers.

Murray Valley viticulturalist, Matt Partridge, of Rutherglen Estates, Rutherglen, Victoria, said harvesting had been brought forward, with his team of nine starting earlier this week, at 3am.

Sugar levels needed to be closely monitored, as they could skyrocket in the heat.

“We (vignerons) now face a balancing act, where we need to give grapes time to reach optimal flavour without allowing them to spoil in the heat,” he said.

“Some growers were harvesting in January for the first time, so it’s uncharted territory.”

The ABC on Thursday night’s 7:30 Report also ran a story on the extreme sunburn toll in the southern horticultural industries, especially in Victoria and SA.

In Victoria, Victorian Farmer Federation horticultural division president, Peter Cochrane, estimated the cost to the state ‘at many millions’.

Individual growers have lost fruit worth $200,000, and more.

Yarra Valley fruit grower, Terry Burgi, for instance, said he had lost a quarter of his apple crop – it’s worthless burnt fruit, even ‘stewed fruit’, in part of the crop.

This follows six days above 40 degrees in SA and in Victoria the heatwave is rebuilding today, after a brief ‘respite’ with temperatures in the high 30 degree range instead of in the 40s.

It will be even hotter into the weekend, with temperatures again reaching into the 40s on Saturday.

Extreme fire danger forecasts have already being issued for the state for the weekend.

Damage from the heatwave in Victoria has already exceeded an estimated $100m.

As a nation, Australia is facing two weather extremes at this time, the northern flood damage in Queensland has already far exceeded the $100m mark, too.

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