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B.C. fruit could cost more, be scarce due to pandemic, warn growers

Last Updated Jun 30, 2020 at 10:46 am PDT

FILE - Pear branches in Oliver were close to blooming in April (B.C. Fruit Growers Association, Facebook).
Summary

B.C. fruit producers are being forced to cut crops to stay afloat during the pandemic: association

A majority of B.C. fruit growers are worried about being able to cover costs from following public health guidelines

The fruit industry was already facing challenges entering the 2020 growing season, says association

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. fruit producers are being forced to cut crops to stay afloat during the pandemic, creating concerns about supply and prices for the fall.

According to a survey by the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, two-thirds of its members are reducing production as a result of the uncertainties and risk surrounding COVID-19.

A majority of members indicate they are worried about being able to cover additional costs from following new public health guidelines.

Even more are worried about having enough labour to bring crops in.

“We knew things would be bad coming into the growing season this year, but these numbers are extremely troubling even to those of us in the industry,” said Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BCFGA.

“These numbers should worry anyone concerned about where their food will be coming from this fall, and how much it’s going to cost.”

The association is calling the pandemic a threat to food security in B.C.

The fruit industry was already facing challenges entering the 2020 growing season. Apple prices have been so depressed the past three years that the cost to produce them is higher than the price farmers receive for their crops, according to the association.

“What is important to recognize is this pandemic has really highlighted the tenuous state of the whole agriculture sector in B.C.,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the BCFGA.

“If we don’t start to address some of the structural issues in our industry, food security and the food supply chain are at the mercy of whatever the next natural disaster is to come along.”

Despite support from the Canadian and B.C. governments, increased costs and labour shortages remain.

B.C.’s Interior tree fruit industry represents 800 growers operating orchards that generate $118 million in wholesale revenue and contribute $776 million in economic activity, according to the association.