Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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B.C. apple growers feeling bruised


April 13, 2010
By Marg Land


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There’s trouble brewing in the storage houses and orchards of B.C.’s apple producers.

There’s trouble brewing in the storage houses and orchards of B.C.’s apple producers. Prices have been tumbling for growers, with the average price of B.C. apples being in the area of 13 cents per pound. Meanwhile, the cost of production for B.C. apples is about 22.5 cents per pound.

Producers were expecting low prices for the 2009 crop following a “severe downturn” in the average price of apples in 2008. But, according to B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Joe Sardinha, “the first advance pool was lower than anyone expected.”

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The association held two grower meetings in mid-February to discuss the issue, which is seen as being caused by the overproduction and subsidization of Washington’s apple crop plus the bargaining power of consolidated retailers. The current high price of the Canadian dollar in comparison to U.S. currency also isn’t helping since any conversion benefit from receiving payment in U.S. funds has been lost.

In light of the problem, officials with the BCFGA approached B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture Steve Thomson in early March to request a special payment of $10 million for growers. They argued the special payment is needed so producers have financial resources available to them to grow this season’s apple crop. As of the writing of this editorial, there has been no response from Thomson about the request.

The BCFGA has also approached the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) to discuss developing an orderly marketing system and the possibility of launching trade action against the U.S. The managers of Canada’s various apple associations plan to work on alternatives for orderly marketing in the coming months. These ideas will be discussed at the CHC Apple Working Group’s summer meeting. As for launching trade action, there are no immediate plans.

In 2008-2009, the Washington apple industry exported 5.38 million bushels of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala and Fuji apples to Canada, up more than 36,000 bushels from 2007-2008.

Meanwhile, the BCFGA urged its members to apply for an AgriStability Interim Payment (the due date was the end of March) and a full withdrawal of AgriInvest funds, “even though the resources provided are not adequate.

“If we do not take advantage of the AgriStability Interim Payment, then government will question the request we are taking forward,” said Sardinha in a letter to BCFGA members.

Grower frustration is “clearly evident,” he added. The association is considering public demonstrations to explain the plight of growers to the public.

“It continues to be a very stressful time for each of us,” said Sardinha. “But together, we must move forward on short and long-term solutions to the income crisis.”

In other industry news, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president and fruit and vegetable producer Bette Jean Crewes was recently awarded one of five 2010 Rosemary Davis awards. The honour is presented by Farm Credit Canada to women who give of themselves in their communities and their careers. Other winners of the 2010 award included a dairy producer from B.C., a dairy producer from Nova Scotia, a hog producer from Manitoba and a greenhouse operator from Quebec.

Congratulations to all.