The BC Fruit Growers Association is stepping up to help Okanagan apple growers during the current difficult times.
In an effort to inform the public of the depressed pricing that Okanagan apple growers are receiving for their crops, the Growers’ Association is sponsoring a 12 cent apple sale at Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market on Saturday, Oct. 10.
Over the past four years, apple growers have received extremely low prices for their fruit. In 2019 average price for apples was $0.126 per pound – well below the cost of production of $.30 to $.35 per pound.
There are several factors contributing to the low producer price. Some of these factors include:
- Retail consolidation, as shown by the divergence of producer revenue and the price that consumers pay to retailers.
- The impact of the Columbia River Treaty vastly increasing the size of Washington State production, as shown by the change in volume between 1964 (the treaty was signed in 1965) and present. In the same period, Okanagan apple production declined.
- The U.S. provided Washington State apple producers with a cash subsidy of $0.07 per pound in Aug. 2020. These types of subsidies in America are undermining Canadian agricultural viability.
- The B.C. government’s contribution to agricultural support programs is the lowest in Canada and Canada’s support level is the lowest among developed nations.
COVID-19 has caused additional costs for operations, though there are some government programs that will partially offset the costs.
According to Glen Lucas the general manager of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, a negative impact on the industry due to COVID-19 is that the net costs will compound pre-existing financial pressure on the sector.
“To counter this financial situation, where revenue is only 36 per cent of the cost of production, growers have been taking desperate measures, including not pruning, not thinning, and using less harvest labour,” he said, adding that labour is also affected by COVID-19 related worker shortages.
“Producers are squeezing every penny they can to increase efficiency and the packing industry is seeking ways to increase efficiency through equipment and capital investments, but resources for these improvements are difficult to raise in troubled economic times in the apple sector,” explained Lucas.
The event will be held at the Kelowna Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8. All funds raised will be donated to the local food bank.