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Market Watch

Vicious summer hailstorms wreak havoc with several commodities.


rost, hail, rain, coolweather and hotweather have all had adverse effects on tree fruit and grape

crops this season, but overall, prices have been better than in recent years according to B.C. Tree Fruits Co- operative CEOAlan Tyabji. He’s hopeful this year’s cherry

returns are high enough that theywill make up for the fact itwas a light crop year. The president of the B.C. Cherry

Association, ChristineDendy,was not quite so enthusiastic, saying cherry returns had been affected by spring frosts, coolweather at blossomtime, June rain and July heat, aswell as a poor start to the season south of the border, and tough competition from European cherries later in the year. She estimates therewas only half the

normal crop in both B.C. and Washington State, and figures that cost the B.C. industry about $32million this year,with a crop of only about 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes, compared to 16,000 tonnes last year. Sheworries that next year could

present even bigger challenges for growers as bothWashington and B.C. could have big cropswith new production coming on-streamaswell. As this editionwent to press the

Okanagan Valley hadweathered three significant hailstorms, including a savage one that left Southeast Kelowna farmerswatching helplessly as chunks of ice the size ofmarbleswere hurled by strongwinds at their nearly-mature crops. The Coronation table grape cropwas

decimated,with ready-to-pick bunches of the iconic blue grapes left oozing juice amongst the shredded leaves, and tossed to the ground—attractingwasps and hornets as they began to rot. Apple trees sported broken branches,

slashed leaves, cut and bruised fruit while the ground belowwas littered with fruit, bits of leaves and branches after the Aug. 12 storm. It’s estimated that 700 acres of

orchard and vineyardwere impacted by that 25-minute hailstorm,with 40

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013 5

By Judie Steeves Returns rise despite weather woes

or so farms affected.Many appleswere so severely damaged they couldn’t even be picked for juice. Evenwine grapes, often safe during

hailstorms as they hang belowthe canopy,were bruised and left rotting by the storm,while the vine’s leaveswere chopped into green lace. At least twowineries lost their entire

crop ofwine grapes and other farmers also experienced total crop losses. For some, it’s likely damagewill continue

Spring frost also impacted apple

yields in theOliver-Osoyoos area, and therewas hail in both Summerland and Vernon affecting a further 15 to 20 orchards. Co-op field servicesmanagerHank

Markgraf reported that peacheswere also affected by the spring frost in the southern part of the valley, so numbers were down although size and quality were good. Nectarineswere also affected, and this year’s apricot cropwas way down. “The season was over before it began,” he commented. Pears experienced some


to be felt for the next couple of years, as fruit budswere harmed, and plantswill need time to recover. The storm’s damagemade a good

case for growers buying up hail insurancewhen it’s clearwhat kind of crop hangs on the trees in spring, so that losses fromsuch freak storms are notmore than the grower can afford. It’s all aboutmanaging risk. This year, apple growers got the

highest prices ever, according to Tyabji, and he’s hopeful growerswill use that money to set aside for replanting orchards. It’s essential that growers growthe right varieties, he emphasized, or theywon’t get the returns.

of the hail, but itwas a bigger crop that had to be sorted by growers so hailed fruitwasn’t shipped. Overall itwas similar to last year, he said. Spring frost in the south

also impacted apples,while hailstorms in other pockets in the valley also reduced

the size of the crop. Overall, though,Markgraf forecast

good quality appleswill come off the trees about aweek early this year, and good-sized fruitwill result in good prices, even if prices are down fromthe extraordinary returns fromlast year’s crop. He advised growers to remember

that light crops usuallymature quickly and to remember that post-harvest nutrient sprays help ensure a good crop the next year. “Growers have done a good job of

looking after their crops this year,” he added.

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