Okanagan apple prices climb

Increased demand for local crop as other apple-growing regions face challenges

  • Oct. 7, 2012 5:00 a.m.

JUDIE STEEVES

Black Press

The misfortunes of apple growers in Eastern Canada translate into good news for B.C. growers, with prices for this year’s apple crop already 10 to 20 per cent higher than last year.

A late spring frost decimated apple crops in Eastern Canada and the U.S., so local fruit is in heavy demand from buyers who normally would purchase it in the east.

Hank Markgraf, field services manager for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, says this year’s harvest is only partway through, but overall fruit quality is good, including colour and firmness.

A cool spring here means fruit is slightly smaller, but the quantity of fruit is up from what was forecast, just under three million 20-pound cartons.

The crop in neighbouring Washington State is also up, at about 120 million cartons, but it’s hoped that U.S. sellers will sell into the Eastern U.S. rather than focussing on the B.C. markets this year, he commented.

Very hot weather this summer slowed ripening of the crop, because trees tend to shut down during hot weather, so apples are being picked a bit later than usual, Markgraf said.

McIntosh apples have already been picked and growers are in the midst of harvesting royal galas. They’ll be followed by ambrosias and Spartans.

Colder nights have helped increase the colouring in them prior to picking, noted Markgraf, as did a couple of cooler nights in early September with the early varieties of apples.

Chris Pollock, marketing manager for B.C. Tree Fruits, says sales teams are setting up sales programs for Eastern Canadian customers and exports to Southeast Asia.

“It’s an opportunity for us this year, but we’d like to create partnerships for the long term, not just a one-off,” he explained.

As well, he said they must first ensure their loyal Western Canadian customers are looked after first.

He did speculate that this year’s crop could be sold earlier than in most years, although they need to be able to have fruit available to provide continued sales to customers through spring as well.