BC Fruit Growers want a new path forward for marketing apples

Saving iconic apple sector

The BC Fruit Growers Association is looking for ways to reverse the decline of the B.C. apple sector and restore production to its once iconic status.

BC Fruit Growers general manager Glen Lucas says apple farmers have been pulling up their trees in favour of other tree fruit crops for years.

Apple and pear acreage in has been declining from a peak of 8,500 in 2011 to 7,200 acres in 2021, as apple sales are not meeting grower's increased cost of production.

The average farm price of B.C. apples lags behind other jurisdictions — less than 70 per cent of the price received by growers in Washington State. The average revenue per acre in B.C. was 75 per cent of Ontario’s revenue and only 37 per cent of that in Washington State.

Over the past year, B.C. apple growers, along with industry partners, have begun looking for new and better ways to market the province's apples.

Growers and other apple industry partners and volunteers have formed the Orderly Marketing Project Management Committee and a report has proposed a BC Apple Marketing Commission.

“We are asking growers to get involved: check out the information on the website, discuss this idea of orderly marketing amongst the grower community, look at the proposal in the Globalwise report, and provide us with direction by participating in a grower survey,” Lucas says.

“We have heard concerns about the old-style Apple Marketing Board of the 1950s,” he continued.

“Those types of marketing boards do not exist anymore, the modern approach avoids many of the concerns that have been voiced. The BC Fruit Growers’ Association encourages growers and packers to focus on the future.”

Lucas used the fable of the boiling frog to describe the B.C. apple sector. The premise being that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in warm water brought to a boil slowly, it will not see the danger and will be cooked to death.

"At some point, we've got to jump out of the boiling water," Lucas said.

Over the next few months, growers and packers will be consulted through a series of meetings, surveys, and direct feedback. In addition to a recommended apple marketing commission, the consultations will also consider at least one other approach to orderly marketing for comparative purposes.

Lucas is hopeful that growers will embrace the idea and if approved, a scaled down version could be implemented as early as the next growing season in 2024.

"We'd like to see the provincial government help with the initial startup and transition costs but we think that for every marketing dollar spent we could see a $10 or $13 return. But not everybody can afford that initial dollar right now," says Lucas.

More Kelowna News