Okanagan apple growers bullish on future crops

New survey shows growers thinking about expanding their operations, despite tough market conditions

  • May. 19, 2012 4:00 p.m.
B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix and agriculture critic Lana Popham take a bite of Summerland apple orchardist Peter Simonsen’s product in October.

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix and agriculture critic Lana Popham take a bite of Summerland apple orchardist Peter Simonsen’s product in October.

The BC Fruit Growers’ Association released the results of a grower survey which indicates a shift is occurring in the industry.

Kirpal Boparai, President of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA), found the results of the Ipsos Reid survey encouraging, while noting several surprises.  “We are in the fourth year of losses in the apple sector, yet there are 9 per cent more growers thinking of expanding rather than contracting their apple acreage within the next 5 years (15% are likely to increase their acreage of apples and 6 per cent are likely to decrease their acreage of apples).  There is an indication of the economic pressures on the industry through the continuing consolidation within our industry, as the number of large farms in the survey increased.”

The BCFGA also noted a general improvement in the outlook of tree fruit growers, as the percentage who plan to stay in the industry less than 5 years actually decreased from 30% in 2005 to 22% now, and percentage who plan to stay for 5 years to 10 years increased from 25% in 2005 to 41% currently. Intentions for longer term plans (11+ 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% who did not know or refused to say how long they would stay in the industry.  Today, only 2 per cent are in the “Don’t know/refused” segment.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid between March 12 and 20, 2012, provides insight into the make-up of the tree fruit industry in terms of types of fruit grown, size of production and acreage, and intent to replant (an indicator of investment and renewal in the industry), with comparisons between 2005 and 2012.  The survey report is available at www.bcfga.com

“We are very pleased to note that 48% of growers agree that they would increase their overall amount of acreage replanted over the next 5 years if there was a similar version of the provincial government’s Replant/Renewal Programs as what was previously available.  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 Programs have on growers’ plans to renew,” said Glen Lucas, General Manager of the BCFGA.

The BCFGA represents 575 commercial tree fruit growers in BC producing a 2011 farmgate value of $78.4 million on 14,800 acres, according to Statistics Canada.  Most of the BC tree fruit production is located in the Okanagan-Similkameen Valleys, with Creston and Shuswap Valleys also producing commercial volumes of tree fruits.