Apple growers ask for assistance  


Summerland Review

Apple growers in Summerland say the market needs to change for their industry to remain viable.

Published: February 24, 2010 2:00 PM
Updated: February 24, 2010 2:41 PM

0 Comments Plagued by low prices, apple growers are asking for a little short-term and long-term help to make their industry viable once again.

“This is the second year in a row where we’re seeing very poor returns,” said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.

Last year, the year-end industry average price for apples was 16 cents a pound. This year, it is 10 to 13 cents a pound.

That isn’t enough, Sardinha said.

The costs of production on a replant block work out to 22.5 cents a pounds.

Sardinha said the apple industry in British Columbia has been declining in recent years.

“We’ve shrunk by 5,000 acres in the last 10 years,” he said. “Our viability is shrinking too.”

B.C.’s apple industry is worth $130 million a year in revenues, while cherries bring in another $25 to $30 million.

“I think we have a pretty significant identity that has to be preserved,” Sardinha said.

In the past, recent immigrants have been farming, but there are now aging farmers who are getting ready to sell.

Sardinha said the industry needs some help in the short term, as well as changes to help in the future.

“In the long term, we need a system that will get us the cost of production out of the market,” he said.

He said dairy, poultry and eggs are all produced on a supply managed system. The industry is able to produce enough to satisfy the Canadian market, with farmers and consumers both satisfied with the arrangement.

“If we have a marketing system where we can meet our needs from the market, then we don’t need subsidies,” he said.

At present, Canadian apple producers can grow half the apples consumed in the country.

With a controlled pricing system, Sardinha believes local fruit growers would be able to keep farming.

“Imports would have to meet a minimum pricing,” he said. “They could not undercut the amount paid to Canadian farmers.”

While he advocates for a change in the farm marketing system, he believes the consumers should also take an active role in supporting the B.C. apple industry.

“If consumers outright refuse to buy foreign product, that in turn will drive the demand,” he said.