Tree fruit damage rises

An estimated $15 to $18 million in damage will be paid in insurance claims to tree fruit growers affected by hailstorms and spring frost

  • Oct. 13, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Judie Steeves

Black Press

It’s now estimated that $15 to $18 million in damage will be paid in insurance claims to tree fruit growers affected by hailstorms and spring frost this year.

That’s two or three times the normal amount of weather-related damage tree fruit growers normally claim through production insurance, from the business risk management branch of the provincial agriculture ministry, notes director Gary Falk.

“It was a busy year,” he said, with 1,200 claims in total.

And, it continued long past the normal hail period of mid-July to mid-August, with a Sept. 30 hailstorm that affected growers in pockets throughout the Okanagan Valley, he noted.

“I hope it’s the last one of this year,” Falk added.

Already $2 million has been paid out to growers who sustained damage, but Falk said many growers will defer their claims until next year when they receive their ‘packout’ numbers, and know what they will receive for this season’s fruit, and how much of it had to be diverted to juice, or was downgraded because of damage.

Earlier estimates of damage couldn’t be made because the crop insurance adjusters have to look at the damage related to production, and that’s not known until harvest, he explained.

The majority of the damage, 75 per cent to 80 per cent was from hailstorms that moved through the valley this summer, including a devastating one in mid-August that was centred on the KLO Road, Spiers and Swamp Road areas.

In the aftermath of that storm, growers were left with fruit that was cut as well as bruised by hailstones described as the size of marbles and crops in some orchards were a complete write-off.

In all, more than 800 hail claims were registered this year with his branch, said Falk.

In the southern part of the valley, spring frost resulted in crop reductions and damage and cherries in some parts of the valley were damaged by rain.

As well as tree fruits, Falk said another half million dollars in damage was sustained by the grape industry, largely to the Coronation table grape crop, mostly from the mid-August hailstorm.

It’s estimated this year’s payout will be more than 50 per cent above the premiums paid, he said.