B.C. Fruit Growers revealed last week that a number of cherry and apple farms in Creston and throughout the Okanagan are abandoning some of their crops due to a shortage of workers. (Pixabay)

Shortage of B.C. fruit workers due to COVID-19

‘The tree fruit industry and the Ministry of Agriculture are asking local workers to consider helping with the harvest so that food waste is reduced’

The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) revealed on Friday that a number of cherry and apple farms throughout the Creston Valley and the Okanagan are abandoning some of their crops due to a shortage of workers.

“The worker shortage is the result of COVID-19 impacts on international travel and a reduction of travel options within Canada,” said Glen Lucas, the BCFGA’s general manager. “The tree fruit industry and the Ministry of Agriculture are asking local workers to consider helping with the harvest so that food waste is reduced.”

READ MORE: Temporary worker camp for cherry-pickers opens in Creston

Lucas also noted that they have been told by cherry producers that the labour shortage is causing them to “run out of time” in harvesting a variety.

“Practically, the harvest of one variety stops when the next variety starts to ripen, even though the crop remains unharvested in the first variety,” he said.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture has launched a new “Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector” portal to help link local workers with farms.

“We want to ensure that Okanagan Workers and Farmers are making use of the Farm Fish and Food Job Locator,” said Lana Popham, the minister of agriculture. “Local food is so important to food security, and increased use of the portal will help growers get the crop harvested in this year of COVID-19 challenges.”

READ MORE: Creston Valley Hospital addresses COVID-19 rumours regarding farms

According to Lucas, late-season cherry varieties are being harvested in the Okanagan, Similkameen and the Creston Valley in August.

The “Sunrise” variety apple is scheduled to start harvest mid-August in the South Okanagan and move to the North Okanagan later in August. Late season apples — such as Gala, Ambrosia, McIntosh and Spartan — are harvested from September to November.

The job portal can be accessed here.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: aaron.hemens@crestonvalleyadvance.ca


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