Ag minister tours hail-torn orchards

Too early to assess damage says provincial agriculture minister after touring a number of orchards hard-hit by an August hailstorm.

B.C.’s new agriculture minister toured some of the orchards devastated by a severe hailstorm Aug. 12 in Southeast Kelowna Tuesday.

However, he said ministry staff are still assessing the damage so it is premature to make a decision on the severity of the damage at this time.

B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Jeet Dukhia said his growers appreciated the compassion shown by the minister in coming to look at the orchards firsthand.

“Growers are very disheartened to suffer this damage so close to harvest,” he commented.

Hail described as the size of marbles shredded the leaves on trees, broke branches and even did damage to the next year’s fruit buds and the trunks in some instances. Fruit was knocked to the ground, skin was broken and fruit bruised.

The BCFGA estimates that 25 to 35 farms sustained severe damage in the brief storm where the fruit is not even usable for juice, and where orchardists have lost their entire crop of apples.

Up to 15 per cent of this year’s apple harvest has been impacted, says the organization. About half the Coronation table grape crop and some wine grapes were also destroyed in the area.

At a round table meeting following the tour, growers told the minister that the ministry’s crop insurance plan will cover some of the crop loss but not damage to trees.

Growers will face extra extra costs that include additional

fertilizers and nutrients to restore the health of the trees and vines, extra time pruning out

damaged fruit, extra pest control due to open bark lesions providing access to tree-damaging

insects, reducing crop load to strengthen trees, and extra handling of

unharvested fruit that could harbour pests.

“We are encouraging affected growers to keep good records of the extra work and

materials used due to the hail damage,” said Dukhia. The records may be the basis for

proving the need for government assistance to help recovery from this severe weather

event. “The BCFGA will continue to work with government to seek a response to the

extreme weather event of August 12,” concluded Dukhia.

The BCFGA is an agriculture association with a membership of 550 commercial tree fruit

growers in BC. It celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2014.

The minister will visit the Kelowna Farmers’ Market this morning and will later make an announcement, along with federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz, at a B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative packing plant in Lake Country in the afternoon.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

Kelowna Capital News