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Market Watch

Fall weather made up for cold, wet start as crop volume and quality increased, along with prices.


here may have been a month with solid sheets of rain in the Okanagan-Simlkameen early in

the year, but a long, warm, frost-free fall made up for it, permitting the apple crop to fully size up and ripen, with enough cool nights at the right time, that it coloured up nicely as well. “It was a fantastic year for all

varieties,” sums up Hank Markgraf, field service manager for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative. “The extended growing season was great for the later varieties, and the fruit was packed dry so it went into storage well too.” He admitted to being worried in

July because June was so wet, but the weather in September made up for that. In fact, a cool spell during the first

week of September helped colour up the first main season varieties, and a continued warm, dry, sunny fall resulted in larger-sized fruit. It was followed by a change in October that coloured up the remainder of the crop, and most was harvested before the much-needed rains began. Growers maintained pretty good

control of most insects and diseases throughout the season, so fruit is clean and they can begin next year with lower residuals, he noted. Now, it is important that vigilance is kept up next year to again harvest clean fruit. With a little more cash in their

jeans from higher prices, he hopes growers will be able to afford to do all that's necessary to conduct the best horticultural practices in their orchards next year. In fact, prices were 14.2 per cent

higher than last year by the middle of November, mainly due to devastating crop losses in Eastern North America

6 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Winter 2012-13

By Judie Steeves Apple season enjoys a fine finish

from a late frost in the spring, reports Chris Pollock, marketing manager for B.C. Tree Fruits. It was also a larger crop than the

year before, though not a record crop such as was produced in neighbouring Washington State, where 121 million boxes of apples were packed, 11 per cent more than the previous record crop harvested there. However, the co-op’s numbers were

skewed this year by a number of growers who marketed their fruit elsewhere. Pollock reports more than four

million boxes of apples were packed at the co-op this year, more of every variety over last year, except for Reds. Royal Gala is still the largest

volume variety packed, followed by Ambrosia, Spartans, Macs, Honeycrisp, Reds, Goldens and Fuji. The packouts for Macs were better

this year than last, when quality was down, and colour was better than last year so prices were up 13 per cent across the board. Ambrosia prices were up 11.7 per

cent, while Honeycrisp were up 32 per cent. The latter are a popular variety in the East. Galas were up nine per cent, while Spartan prices were up 14 per cent.

The volume of pears packed this

year was down by 17 per cent overall this year, but prices were up about seven per cent, he said. With better returns for apples,

there's increased interest in the replant program announced this spring by the provincial agriculture ministry, and with the drop from $3.70 to $2 a bud for Ambrosia, there's expected to be interest in moving over to that variety. Honeycrisp is also becoming a more

popular variety, and it is later than either Galas or Macs. However, Markgraf warns good

horticultural skills are required to grow it well. He calls it a "horticultural challenge" to grow, unlike Gala which is a forgiving variety to grow. He advises growers at this time of

year to continue to assess their trees and to do careful pruning with a good year behind them, setting themselves up for another good growing season next year. Cherry growers had a big a crop this

year, so it is important that they prune very carefully in order to produce good-sized, marketable fruit in the coming year. Don’t be afraid to prune back hard

and let light into the centre of the tree, he advises.

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