Variable weather has made it difficult for cherry growers to maintain their crops.
According to B.C. Cherry Association president Sukhpaul Bal the hail storm that cut through the Okanagan Thursday didn’t affect the crops anymore than the rain this July, which split and washed out the early cherry varieties.
“When a storm comes through and gets everything wet we can usually get in there and dry everything off and then we’re usually good. But what I’ve seen is rain event after rain event, multiple times a day, so it makes it hard to get in there and dry everything up because another rain shower comes back in,” said Bal.
He said it has been the worst season he has seen in 20 years and has slashed cherry growers revenue in half.
“We are going to make half the money we were expecting and we’ve put the same amount of costs up to that point as other years, but that’s the risk of being a cherry grower. In just a week your earnings could be cut drastically,” said Bal.
He said there’s about half the amount of cherries on market shelves than previous years, which means they are a bit more pricey this season.
“The positive is with the decrease in supply because a lot of the cherries are damaged there should be an increase in the price of cherries. There aren’t that many that survived so hopefully the price reflects on how many cherries there are,” aid Bal. “Hopefully we do get a good price for the cherries we do have that did survive the rain.”
As of July 18, the Ministry of Agriculture production insurance offices have received approximately 435 insurance claims from tree fruit farmers in Kelowna and Oliver.
The insurance claims have come after multiple Okanagan orchards suffered damaged crops from the excess amounts of rain so far this summer. Kempf Orchards in Kelowna reported one of their worst seasons in 20 years this year with 50 to 60 per cent of their early crop of cherries splitting and being unpickable.
In Lake Country, Witzke Orchards lost their entire apricot crop in February due to the cold snap and frost. They’ve lost cherry crops this year as well in what has been one of their worst seasons in the past 11 years.
“Cherries are splitting because of the rain and we’ve lost crops,” said Keith Barth with Witzke Orchards.
“You can’t really put a money value on the losses, and we really won’t know the damage until the season is over.”
The Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that the extent of the damage will not be known until the season is over, and they anticipate there will be more rain-split claim notices in the next months.
The ministry has been in regular contact with B.C. cherry and fruit growers and will continue to work with the orchards and farms.