Okanagan cherry growers hurting from storms
More than a million dollars in losses have been sustained by the tree fruit industry due to rain and hail storms in the Okanagan in the past couple of weeks reports the provincial agriculture ministry’s production insurance branch.
Some growers have lost their entire crop of cherries as the result of a series of storms that tore through the valley the last half of July. General manager Byron Jonson says there were 10 distinct hail events and a lot of small storms in the past two weeks.
In particular, hail and rain devastated some areas both Friday, July 20 and Friday, July 27, while in-between multiple storms inflicted various levels of damage in different areas.
Worst hit was the South Okanagan where overall there are moderate to severe losses to the cherry crop, he said.
Rain has caused more damage than hail, because when too much moisture hits a warm, ripening cherry it plumps it up too much — until the skin can’t stretch any more — and it splits, rendering the fruit unfit for consumption.
Some varieties of cherries are more prone to damage from splitting when it rains just as fruit is colouring, while some of the newer varieties developed at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Summerland are resistant to such damage.
Jonson said there was also some damage to peaches, but it’s too early to say whether any of the apple or pear crops were damaged by the hail.
He estimated there are around 350 producers in the southern part of the valley who were affected by the stormy weather.
At this point, however, he said growers are required to file a notification with the production insurance branch to say they may have sustained a loss, but often it’s not yet known how widespread that loss is, or whether there was definitely any damage.
There were significantly fewer growers in the northern half of the valley who sustained damage, although even there some growers lost their entire crop, he said.
It had been estimated this year’s crop would be larger than usual, but this will reduce the overall amount of cherries that will head to market.
The news will also mean growers have to spend the same amount to grow the crop and harvest it, but won’t have the returns to pay for those inputs.