Cool weather has had a positive impact on both quality and prices.
ooler weather this summer resulted in good quality fruit overall, because trees have not been heat-stressed, and prices for good quality fruit are expected to remain better than in some recent years.
Don Westcott, director of grower services for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, says he is optimistic that apple prices will be solid for the current year’s crop, even though it is later coming off than normal, with a late spring and cool summer. Cherries have also been late, and Westcott says the packinghouse is handling them into September this year, when normally they’re all finished by the third week in August. Last year’s apple crop benefited from being a bit later than normal, in a cool August, which helped the fruit colour up before harvest. Royal Gala and Macs, in particular, benefited, Westcott says.
That’s expected to be repeated this year, with a later harvest.
Prices for a number of varieties did quite well, considering that neighbouring Washington State had a bumper crop of apples last year. Fruit size was an issue with the crop, but nonetheless, prices on average were up from the previous year, he reports.
Due to a shortage of process apples in the East, where some producers actually grow for processing, prices of process apples strengthened during the season.
In all, the OTFC handled 210,000 bins of fresh market apples, with another 5,000 bins diverted due to damage from hail or frost.
Volume was down a bit, because of reduced apple acreage overall, with some growers replanting to grapes or cherries, and others simply removing trees because of the lack of profitability in recent years, notes Westcott.
The resurgence of independent packers has also meant a loss of volume to the OTFC.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011 5
By Judie Steeves Later harvest has significant benefits
This year’s crop has sized up well and and quality is excellent, with ideal growing conditions. In addition, Washington State is
not predicting another bumper crop, and even with last year’s high volumes, they held prices, which bodes well for this year.
Cherry prices started off good at the beginning of the season, but then a few significant rain events caused localized damage, particularly in some varieties.
Growers who used helicopters to blow off rainwater largely prevented splitting, so were rewarded with fewer losses, he notes. Growers who didn’t were encouraged to clean up their crops before shipping to the packinghouse, but there was some splitting, he reports.
Fruit has sized up well, with an ideal crop load following a reasonable set this spring. Cooler temperatures helped fruit retain its firmness.
However, there is now significant competition on prices as there are many cherry shippers and sellers in the valley. That, coupled with a good crop in Washington State, has affected prices, he says.
The strong start to selling prices levelled off a bit lower than
anticipated, but prices aren’t disastrous.
Some growers will make good money; some average; and those with damage to a particular variety will experience losses there, he comments.
Southern growers with Lapins, the valley’s biggest variety, did well, shipping clean fruit.
OTFC cherries were shipped throughout Western Canada, California and to some other U.S. states, as well as some overseas, to Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Westcott said growers did a superb job of managing Spotted Wing Drosophila this year with their spray programs. It’s a significant challenge that has changed the way soft fruits are managed.
There was also a small crop of apricots, but prices were “respectable,” while peaches experienced an optimal year, with excellent size, firm fruit, good colour and holding quality.
It was a below-average size of crop this year.
Westcott commented that despite the fact growers are constrained by returns, they should be congratulated in how they managed their crops this year.
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