Farmers are hoping for a very strong crop this year

Growing season looks good

Despite challenges for British Columbia fruit growers, the President of the BC Cherry Association is feeling optimistic about this year's cherry crops.

"Overall the outlook is positive," said Sukhpal Bal.

The general manager of the BC Fruit Growers' Association, Glen Lucas, echoed that sentiment but said a trend that has seen some growers exit the apple business in favour of cherries or grapes has continued.

"About 15 per cent of apple crops have been removed in our area as farmers switch to more profitable crops, like cherries or grapes," Lucas says.

Oyama farmer Alan Gatzke believes that number is even higher, especially if you go back over a five-year period and especially in the Penticton area.

"If it's less than 50 percent I'd be surprised," Says Gatzke.

The transition started years before the COVID-19 pandemic added multiple layers of added expenses for farmers, plus extra difficulties finding and hiring workers.

However, compared to last year the outlook this season is rosy, "it's very encouraging to see all the blossoms. last season hardly any blossoms appeared because of the cold damage," says Bal.

Bal says that last year's low volume of crops may be a blessing in disguise. "Trees were able to rest a bit and provide more energy towards this season's crop." In fact, Bal is hopeful that this year could see record volumes.

"Growing cherries especially can be difficult during normal times but we've really had to work hard and we're trying to look after this crop that looks like it could be quite large."

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