While the Washington cherry harvest has started, growers in British Columbia need to wait another three to four weeks. “We are a long ways from harvest,” says Sukhpaul Bal, President of the BC Cherry Association. “Overall, we are predicting a smaller BC cherry crop this year as we had to deal with a few cold events that impacted yields.”
In talking to growers in various regions, it is still too early to say what the end volumes will be. “We are seeing a very mixed picture across all regions, with some varieties showing a good crop while other varieties in the same orchard are lighter. This makes it a tough crop to forecast in total, and we will only know the real picture when we get fully into the season,” Bal commented. To date, the size of the fruit is very encouraging, and BC expects to see larger fruit in the market.
Sukhpaul Bal, President of the BC Cherry Association.
Fighting frost with helicopters
Jealous Fruits, located in the northern part of the Okanagan Valley, actively fought the cold weather events. “We fought the frost with wind machines and helicopters,” shared Julie McLachlan with the company. “Helicopters help circulate warmer air aloft into the canopy of the orchards, raising temperatures.” Despite the cold weather events in January and March, the company is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. “All indications point that it will be a high-quality crop and we are hopeful demand for BC cherries will be strong.”
Government takes charge of quarantine foreign workers
In recent months, the British Columbia ag industry has worked closely with the BC as well as Federal government on the arrival and quarantine of foreign workers. “Our government has taken control of the quarantine by housing all foreign workers in hotels in the vicinity of Vancouver airport and Richmond,” Bal shared. “Each foreign worker has their own hotel room and although some workers tested positive after arrival in the country, they were able to stay isolated in their own rooms.” The government also provides food for the workers and arranges for transportation to the different farms after the quarantine period has ended. “At farms, there are more common areas and isolation in the Vancouver area has been a great solution to reduce COVID-19 spread,” said Bal.
The government has committed to this program for the entire season and for all foreign workers entering Canada. While the BC government pays for hotel rooms and food, the Federal Government covers their wages during the quarantine period. “We are very thankful the government stepped up,” Bal said. “They are showing appreciation for the farmers and are encouraging them to continue to grow food.”
For more information:
BC Cherry Association