Growers ready to expand

More Okanagan orchardists say they are looking to increase acreage

  • May. 23, 2012 1:00 p.m.

There appears to be some optimism within the Okanagan’s tree fruit industry.

The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association has released the results of a recent grower survey.

“We are in the fourth year of losses in the apple sector, yet there are nine per cent more growers thinking of expanding rather than contracting their apple acreage within the next five years,” said Kirpal Boparai, BCFGA president.

“Fifteen per cent are likely to increase their acreage of apples and six per cent are likely to decrease their acreage of apples.”

Bopari, though, said there is an indication of the economic pressures on the industry through continuing consolidation as the number of large farms in the survey increased.

The survey also noted a general improvement in the outlook of tree fruit growers, as the percentage who plan to stay in the industry less than five years actually decreased from 30 per cent in 2005 to 22 per cent now, and the percentage who plan to stay for five to 10 years increased from 25 per cent in 2005 to 41 per cent currently.

Intentions for longer term plans (11-plus years) have stayed the same compared to seven years ago.

Much of the positive change in outlook happened because people are more decided now than in 2005 – back then there were 14 per cent who did not know or refused to say how long they would stay in the industry.  Today, only two per cent are in the don’t know/refused segment.

“We are very pleased to note that 48 per cent of growers agree that they would increase their overall amount of acreage replanted over the next five years if there was a similar version of the provincial government’s replant/renewal programs as what was previously available,” said Glen Lucas, BCFGA general manager.

“We have been asking the province for such a program to get growers the resources to renew and become economically sustainable.  This survey shows the impact that a replant/renewal program has on growers’ plans to renew.”

The BCFGA represents 575 tree fruit growers producing a 2011 farm gate value of $78.4 million on 14,800 acres.