Ewa Niwczyk | Dreamstime.com
The 2013 growing season gave cherry farmers a break from the rains of 2012. “It was a very good year in terms of quality and size of fruit,” says Chris Pollock, marketing manager for BC Tree Fruits. "Cherries went a lot smoother than the year before. It was a very good year in terms of quality and size of fruit.”
The growing season was not without challenges as there was frost in the south early in the bloom season, but overall fruit from south, central, and north Okanagan areas as well as Creston was of great quality.
The numbers for cherries were slightly down for 2013 due to the loss in the south, but after the dust settled there were five million pounds harvested, compared to 5.8 million in 2012.
“The returns to the growers were higher this year as we had an export program this year with Sutherland SA Produce who distribute fruit throughout Asia,” says Pollock. “That program was definitely a success and allowed us to access markets we weren’t allowed to access before.”
Jeet Dukhia, President of the BCFGA, agrees that selling overseas is great for local farmers. “By selling our fruits overseas it takes the pressure off of the local domestic markets so there isn’t a glut of product, and prices stay fair for farmers.”
He also noted later varieties like Staccato and Sweetheart cherries did quite well this year, while early varieties like Bing and Titan did not fair as well.
The Upside of Down
Most of the Okanagan’s soft fruit comes from the southern regions and was hit by the same frost that hit the cherries. “We were down in all fruits this year, except apricots, which was steady,” says Pollock. “Peaches were down to 2.5 million, whereas 2012 was 3.1 million pounds received. The quality was good this year despite the lower volume.”
Nectarines were down to 360,000 pounds in 2013, way under the 575,000 pounds that were harvested in 2012. Prunes and plums took a dive as well and weighed in at just less than 950,000 pounds, down from 1.1 million in 2012.
Apricots were down to 130,000 from 212,000 pounds in 2012. The fruit that was harvested was of a high quality.
On the upside of a year with lower volume, BC Tree Fruits was able to sell peaches at a little higher price this year. Andrew, Bartlett and Bosch pears were up from 2012’s 5,500 bins, to some 6,800 bins despite hail damage in the Kelowna region.
In Washington State, cherries remain king by virtue of value even if the 2013 crop was much smaller than the year before. Washington packed out 285 million pounds of cherries. Huge as that is in comparison to the B.C. crop, it was down 36% from the record-breaking 2012 crop of 446 million pounds. For growers everywhere the bonus from smaller crops were generally higher prices.
The frost last year in Ontario devastated peach farmers who lost more than half of their blossoms. This year was a bit easier on the peach crop with hailstorms that left some marks on the fruit, and like B.C., despite the lower volume, the fruit was of a high quality. ■