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Market Watch

Focusmust be on niche products, not going toe-to-toe with huge competitors.

s far as the eye can see, rows upon rows of trees march up hill and down dale on both sides of the highway, for miles and miles and miles.


Just a look at the landscape in the Wenatchee area in Washington State gives you the picture. It’s simply boggling to see the mass of acreage there devoted to growing apples. On the other hand, aside from a few large orchards—large by our standards rather than by those in the U.S.—many orchards in B.C. are just a fraction of the size of those of our competitors in the global marketplace.

And, this is a point that is one thing on paper, in figures, but when you see those millions of trees marching off like armies over the entire landscape down there, you have to wonder how we have competed with that scale of growing tree fruits up to now.

Keeping that in mind, though, makes you realize the only way B.C. growers can make a living in competition with orchards on such a large scale is to stay out of that league and do what we can do —differently, by turning our full attention to niche markets where we can excel and where we can charge a premium price because we’re growing apples particularly well and growing different varieties; or by marketing and packaging them differently so they stand apart from those from the giant U.S. industry.

One way the Okanagan can set itself apart in global markets is by achieving an Area of Low Pest Prevalence designation. That is a very real possibility

6 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013

By Judie Steeves Pursuit of fruit excellence is essential

because of the success of the Sterile Insect Release program, which has reduced problems with codling moth to just a few stubborn growers, and which has reduced the amount of chemicals that go on our fruit dramatically. Consumers (certain discriminating consumers with money to spend to follow their beliefs and ethics) are willing to pay a higher price for such assurances, and that’s where B.C. must focus.

We got a reprieve this year, but simply due to someone else’s misfortune. Growers in Eastern North America were slaughtered by a late spring freeze last year that destroyed their crop, not by something we can count on every year to keep us in business.

Key to this niche market business is growing absolutely top-quality fruit, even though it will cost a bit more during the growing season, because those extra costs will repay growers at the end of the season when quality fruit is

picked and packed.

Without the attention to detail and careful growing practices that produce good fruit, we might as well throw in the towel. B.C. Tree Fruits spokesman Chris Pollock reports that marketing the current crop is ahead of last year by more than 95,000 cartons with prices that are up 10 to 15 per cent over last year. That varies with different varieties, with ones that are favoured in Eastern markets doing particularly well.

Varieties that have done well include Ambrosia, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Spartan and Sunrise, while Fuji, Nicola, Red Delicious and Royal Gala are moving similarly to last year. This year resolve to do all you can throughout the year to produce nothing but the best quality fruit that would fit into niche markets where consumers will want to pay extra for your fruit.

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