The Okanagan Valley apple industry in British Columbia is on the ropes, facing cheaper competition, labour shortages, and poor weather.
Washington State apple growers received a seven per cent a pound federal subsidy this year allowing them to sell apples for less. The state exports 200 million pounds of apples to Canada, about 1.3 times Okanagan production.
Fruit production brings $513 million a year to B.C. with $51 million to the 800 fruit producers.
Further complicating orchard woes was the labour situation this year. Pandemic-related restrictions cut immigrant labour arrivals to 5,000 from the usual 8,000 to perform the back-breaking work.
With weather ripening apples at different rates, it took three sweeps of orchards to harvest the crop. By November, only 320,000 pounds of apples had been picked and delivered.
Another challenge comes from five retailers controlling 80 per cent of the grocery market.
The apple business took a blow when three retailers — Walmart, Loblaws and Metro — introduced new fees to suppliers to pay for expansion plans. Sobeys and Safeway have rejected such fees.
Much of the Okanagan’s prime fruit production acres have been converted to golf courses, condos and resorts.
Ron Walter can be reached at email@example.com