Big jump in cherry exports good news for Okanagan

Opening the lucrative China market to B.C. cherries has helped increase value of cherry exports by 70 per cent.

B.C. cherries are making a name for themselves around the world.

Agriculture Minister and Kelonwa-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick released figures Tuesday showing cherry exports from B.C. in 2015 were up substantially,both in the volume exported and the the value of those exports.

“I am pleased to report in 2015, B.C. cherry exports increased dramatically from the previous year to 13,600 metric tonnes—a 56 per cent increase—to a value of $91.7 million—a 70 per cent increase,” said Letnick.

“The data also includes a significant rise in sour cherry exports from $2.7 million in 2014 to $11.2 million in 2015.

With the bulk of Canada’s cherry grown in the Okanagan the increases are good news for growers here.

According to Kelowna grower Chancal Ball, whose son Sukpal is the president of the B.C. Cherry Association,changes that helped open the China market to Canadian cherries have been a big help in prompting those increases.

“There is a lot of demand from China for Canadian cherries,” said Bal.

Sukpal is currently in Germany at an international food congress, and his father said interest in Canadian grown produce, particularly soft fruits, is high there.

According to Letnick, the export value of fresh, sweet cherries to China more than doubled in 2015 compared to 2014, rising from $9.9 million to $24 million.

In 2014, led a B.C. delegation with cherry industry representatives on a federal trade mission to China that led helped secure full, unimpeded access for fresh cherries into China.

Bal said that, along the work local growers are doing to not only meet Chinese import criteria but also secure other markets such as in the U.S. and Europe, has also helped push up cherry exports.

The B.C. government’s has said it is trying to make the agrifood sector in this province a $15-billion-a-year industry by 2020.

“We are going to build on this (cherry export) momentum,” said Letnick. “Thanks to the close working relationship with our provincial cherry industry, we look forward to exploring new opportunities with Pacific Rim countries that recently signed the Trans Pacific Partnership.”

He said while British Columbians have always known how good fruit from the Okanagan is, now the rest of the world does too.


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