June 20, 2013 - 1:26 PM
OKANAGAN — It's been a bad week for fruit growers. Between hail and heavy rain, cherry and apple crops have suffered significant damage, translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses for farmers.
"We've had very bad luck," says Jeet Dukhia, B.C. Fruit Growers Association president.
Cherries in the southern Okanagan become prone to splitting if there's too much rain. In that condition, Dukhia says "they aren't good for anything."
On his own Vernon farm in the North Okanagan, Dukhia says cherries were knocked to the ground and apples pummeled by hail to the point they could not be sold. But he didn't lose everything, unlike some.
He says J&M Sandher Orchards in the Swan Lake area was completely destroyed, and they are looking at $400,000 to $500,000 damages.
Many farmers have crop insurance, but Dukhia says it won't cover the entirety of the damage. And for less established orchards—those under five years old—he says insurance is even less.
The ruined cherries were to be some of the first shipped to China under a pilot project permitting the exports, and Dukhia hopes the new deal won't be affected.
"It's the first year and exports are limited anyway, so it didn't impact things as much," Dukhia says.
He hopes next year will see better weather, but worries bizarre weather trends will continue. He says longtime Okanagan farmers are saying they haven't seen hail and rain like this in 70 years.
"The pattern seems to be changing," Dukhia, who has been farming in the area for 35 years, says. "What we need is better coverage for damages—you can't control Mother Nature."
He's hoping for warmer weather, around 28 C, and less rain.
"We need heat to grow the apples and make the cherries sweet," he says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013