Some BC fruits will be in short supply after crops decimated by winter

Emily Chambers, co-owner of Blue Canoe in Creston, said none of the 1.5 hectares of lapine trees in her orchard have produced a single viable flower bud this season.

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Farmers in British Columbia’s interior say rapid fluctuations in winter weather have wiped out many of their peach, grape and cherry crops, meaning consumers will likely see fewer local berries on grocery store shelves this year. summer.

Emily Chambers, co-owner of Blue Canoe in Creston, said none of her orchard’s 1 1/2 acres of lapine cherry trees have produced a single viable flower bud this season.

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“We probably won’t have any cherries,” said Chambers, who has operated the farm with her husband, Trent Mason, for four years, marketing her cherries to grocers across Canada and the United States. “We got used to taking out around 40,000 pounds.” of the fruit in each harvest season, but this type of harvest is unheard of.”

Chambers said she is fortunate to have provincial crop insurance, which will help cover some costs associated with lost production.

Peter Simonsen, president of the British Columbia Fruit Growers Association, said the weather-related damage is the worst the industry has seen since flooding caused by extreme weather devastated parts of southwestern British Columbia in November. 2021.

“What happened was an unusual period of warm weather that suddenly turned very cold in January. As the tree sap rose, it was like the pipes in your house freezing – it kills the flower buds and can also damage the tree in the long term.”

Simonsen, a grower of apples, pears and peaches on a 25-hectare farm he owns in Naramata, said that while some of his apple and pear buds managed to survive the extreme weather, he doesn’t expect to see any of his peaches. Get it on store shelves this summer.

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“While most of my peach blossoms died, their trees will probably recover before next winter, but they won’t bear fruit this season.”

Farmers are among those calling on high levels of government to provide financial assistance to British Columbia’s interior fruit growers who have been affected by extreme weather fluctuations.

“There needs to be emergency funding through the AgriRecovery program so farmers can get back to production,” Simonsen said, noting that many producers are still dealing with damage to their farms from the 2021 floods.

In an unrelated press conference Wednesday, BC Premier David Eby acknowledged the recent devastation of extreme weather resulting from the impacts of climate change on the province’s tree fruit farms.

“There was no snow to protect the (perennial) plants, the temperature change was huge and it devastated their crops,” the prime minister said.

While Eby did not announce any plans to provide financial aid to British Columbia producers, he said the province “will support those farmers as they rebuild, we understand the importance of the industry and the challenges they face due to the extreme weather we are facing as a result.” of climate change.”

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Darmer Sukhdeep Brar, vice-president of BC Fruit Growers, said across the Okanagan farmers are reporting between 30 and 100 per cent damage to the flower buds on their cherry trees.

“All the red fruits in British Columbia are going to have some kind of success. So apricots, plums, prunes and nectarines too, but it fluctuates because if your fruit tree is already in a cold place, like grapes, the weather goes to cause more damage.”

Brar, who grows cherries and peaches on his 110-acre farm in Summerland, said damaged flower buds may not grow back in time for harvest, as fruit production is a multi-year process.

Because of the devastation of the sprouts on his fruit trees, Brar said he decided to postpone the idea of ​​bringing in the dozen foreign workers he employs from Mexico each season to harvest the crops.

“If we brought them here and there were no jobs, it would cost us a lot financially.”

Danny Turner, owner of Creston’s Just A Mere Farm, said he doesn’t expect to be able to harvest enough fruit for a commercial crop this year. Turner reported that “100 percent mortality is rare” in the buds of his plum, peach and cherry trees on his six-hectare farm.

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“With my apples, it’s too early to tell. The fact that there is a flower inside does not mean that you will get fruit because if the pistil (female reproductive organ) is damaged, you will get pollination and a lip of fruit, but the crop will abort in June.

“The reality is that sudden climate changes from hot to cold are common now and policy decisions must reflect the reality of climate change,” Turner said. “I’m waiting for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to declare a state of emergency over this and treat it with the urgency it deserves.”

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