Okanagan apple woes: Stunted harvest caps off difficult year
December 2, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
Apple farmers in the Okanagan, B.C., are dealing with one of the worst years in recent memory.
The season started with too much rain and hail. That was soon compounded by a shortage of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The B.C. Fruit Growers Association (BCFGA) put out a call to Okanagan residents to assist with the harvest to compensate for the labour shortage. However, few locals heeded the call. The raging wildfires south of the border along the Pacific coast exacerbated a slow start to the growing season further.
The situation wasn’t improved by the extremely low returns apple farmers received for their produce. Apple prices have been dropping for years, hitting $0.12 per pound in 2020. As it costs $0.30 to produce a pound of apples, Okanagan apple growers are losing money.
The latest blow came on Oct. 23, which saw snowfall break a 120-year record in the Okanagan and an extra-early cold snap. This would have been problematic for apple orchards in any year. But, when combined with a labour shortage that delayed harvest and left plenty of fruit on the trees, it was disastrous. Growers rushed as many bins of apples in off the trees as they could. But the BCFGA estimates the cold snap still froze more than 17 million pounds of apples.
Apple farmers growing fresh-eating apple varieties are waiting to hear what, if anything, crop insurance will cover and whether the provincial government will provide any assistance.
Cider and juicing apples are one of the only positive aspects of Okanagan apple production this year. While apples that have hit temperatures of -7 C are no longer good for juice, the appearance of the fruit does not affect juicing quality. So, small fruit or apples with blemishes or weather damage are still usable. |READ MORE
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