Kamloops, Okanagan cherry farmer expecting price increases because of early cold
Despite cooler temperatures and variable spring weather in both the Okanagan Valley and the Thompson Valley, the owner of Jealous Fruits anticipates a normal, nice cherry crop coming this year.
David Geen’s Coral Beach Farms has 850 acres of orchards in Lake Country, the largest individual cherry grower in Canada.
In recent years he added orchards in the Pritchard area east of Kamloops on Thompson Farm that now has 200 acres of cherry trees.
He said this spring it got cold at the right time for his orchards in both valleys and feels fortunate as fellow cherry growers south of the border were not as lucky.
“We got a cold April and it got cold early which was fortunate,” he said. “The trees did not advance much before it got cold again so the buds were still tight. When the buds open a bit more and the tissue starts showing they don’t tolerate the cold as well.”
Geen said growers in Washington and Oregon are having a tough year.
“Their buds developed and then the cold came so unfortunately they are taking a big hit in production,” he said. “In general, this will cause the market price of cherries here to rise as the American growers often sell cherries in Canada.”
The worst of the cold temperatures happened around April 20. The cherry trees in both valleys were in full bloom from May 2 to mid-May.
“It was a long bloom and some blossoms are still there,” Geen said. “There is still some pollination happening now but the peak of the blossoms is ending.”
The cold temperatures have affected some bee populations, with more losses coming from the Kamloops area due to a variety of reasons, including weather factors in 2021.
“We bring bees up from Vancouver Island to pollinate our Pritchard orchards,” Geen said. “In the Okanagan orchards we use local bees. Some of our Okanagan bee suppliers had some losses but they were not devastating.”
Geen said he is expecting the newest Pritchard orchards to produce between 300 and 400 tonnes of fruit this year.
While a retail outlet has not been established yet for Kamloops area cherry lovers, Geen is hoping to open one in 2023 after first putting in a cold storage facility.
The cherries are sold out of the company packing facility located beside The Jammery on Highway 97 in Kelowna.
The family-run business has been in operation since 1903 and exports cherries around the world, the biggest markets being in China and Korea, where the fruit is seen as a luxurious treat.
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