As Okanagan apple farmers were dealt two difficult growing seasons in a row, many are now facing severe economic hardship. “If you think back to 2017, it was hot and the growing conditions weren’t great for apples so overall the apple size was one or two sizes smaller,” said Glen Lucas, B.C. Fruit Growers Association general manager. “That puts you in a lower price market. Also with that heat, it causes concerns about the storage life for the apples and that puts pressure on the marketing.”
The next year offered much better-growing conditions, but when conditions are good in B.C., they’re even better in Washington State which has a significantly larger footprint in the apple growing market. As those American apples flooded the market, Canadian prices dropped.
Another problem, born closer to home, is that more farmers are putting ambrosia apples on the market and the supply is outweighing the demand. “They’re a younger tree, each year we produce more,” Lucas said. “Volumes have been increasing and we’ve been fairly reliant on local markets in Western Canada and the U.S. We have so much product that we have to develop new markets in Asia and eastern Canada.”
That, however, takes time and Lucas said to get ahead of the curve, they’re looking to the competitiveness fund. They are also relying on packers continuing to want to work together to make the ambrosia market the premium market it should be.
As explained on infotel.ca, the ambrosia apple seedling was discovered in the Similkameen in the early ’80s and it was eventually patented in 1993. It’s a rare find that has helped the local industry.
“You’re probably more likely to win the lottery than find an apple that’s outstanding like ambrosia,” he said.