A new survey by the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association shows more than 67% of farmers have reduced fruit production as a result of uncertainties and risks created by COVID-19.
The new survey paints a bleak picture of the pandemic’s devastating impacts on an already struggling fruit industry and the real threat to food security in B.C. as producers are forced to cut crops to stay afloat.
“We knew things would be bad coming into the growing season this year, but these numbers are extremely troubling even to those of us in the industry,” BCFGA president Pinder Dhaliwal said. “These numbers should worry anyone concerned about where their food will be coming from this fall and how much it’s going to cost.”
The fruit industry says it was already facing stiff headwinds entering the 2020 growing season, with apple prices depressed for three straight years. “The cost to produce has actually been higher than the price farmers receive for their crops,” Dhaliwal said.
The BCFGA survey demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic now has producers facing additional costs and labour shortages this year that will magnify an already weak financial picture. Four in five, or 81%, say they are concerned about being able to cover the additional costs associated with following all COVID-related public health guidelines. Seven in eight, or 87%, are concerned they will not have enough hired labour to bring in their crops.
“What is important to recognize is this pandemic has really highlighted the tenuous state of the whole agriculture sector in B.C.,” BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas said. “If we don’t start to address some of the structural issues in our industry, food security and the food supply chain are at the mercy of whatever the next natural disaster is to come along.”
According to industry data, B.C.’s Interior tree fruit industry represents 800 growers operating orchards that generate $118 million in wholesale revenue and contribute $776 million in economic activity.
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