Good news for fruit growers! Premier Christy Clark announced today in Kelowna a 7 year, $8.4 million Replant Program to assist growers in renewing the production base of the industry.
“The Replant program will kick start the rebuilding, and redirection of the Tree Fruit Industry for the 21st Century,” said Fred Steele, President of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA).
Replanting an orchard costs between $25,000 and $30,000 per acre for a high-density orchard. High-density orchards are more productive and start producing commercial volumes of apples in as little as three years, compared to 8 years and longer for standard plantings. Converting to new, high quality varieties of cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines and plums leads to greater consumer acceptance and increases returns to tree fruit operations.
The program will continue earlier programs, which provide about one quarter to one fifth the total cost of replanting tree fruit. A Commission of Inquiry in 1990 (The Lusztig Report) concluded that “the main avenue open to growers wishing to improve their operations and returns is the renovation and diversification of their orchard by replanting to newer varieties or strains at higher densities”. The report recommended the establishment of the first replant program for tree fruit in place of ‘ad hoc’ programs that provided temporary financial assistance. Since them, nearly 80% of tree fruit acreage has been renewed.
Premier Christy Clark noted that the Replant Program will not only help preserve farmland but also keep it productive.
Agriculture Minister Letnick noted that the replant program was promised by government two years ago, and is now delivered. Forests and Lands Minister Steve Thomson, and MLA Eric Foster were also present at the announcement.
Steele observed “Minister Letnick and Madame Premier for your support of the industry and dedication to completing this much needed boost that will benefit the economy in so many ways. It will lead to jobs, innovation and growth in niche market exports.”
The BCFGA is an agriculture association with a membership of 550 commercial tree fruit growers in BC. It celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2014.