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BC to provide $70M in support for devastated fruit and wine industry

The BC government has put $70 million towards helping fruit growers replant crops and become climate resilient after devastating cold weather.

For grape growers, back-to-back cold spells over two winters wiped out a majority of the grape crop and it’s still not known how many vines died.

Some peach growers could lose all of their crop thanks to the Arctic air that invaded the Okanagan this past winter, while most will see around 75% to 80% of their crops destroyed. Stone fruits — like peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines — are the most sensitive to the colds so suffer the most damage. Cherry crops were also devastated.

READ MORE: Growing grapes in Okanagan is 'like Russian roulette' these days: winemaker

An enhanced provincial replant program will offer up to $70 million to growers who need to replace damaged, diseased and low-producing crops with climate-resilient varieties that produce premium fruit, according to a Ministry of Agriculture news release issued today, March 13.

“There are few things better than locally grown fruit and locally crafted B.C. wine,” Premier David Eby said in the release.

“We’re taking action to support farmers who have been hit hard by a changing climate with a new task force and replant program, which will help about 1,000 more growers revitalize their farms and protect their businesses. The security of our food and our economy depends on the strength and resilience of our farmers.”

Along with climate change, diseases have also afflicted many farmer throughout the province.

READ MORE: Up to 80% of Okanagan peach crop wiped out by winter cold snap

The new replanting program comes on top of the $15 million Perennial Crop Renewal Program launched in 2023. The ministry said the program has helped more than 200 farmers replace unproductive crops with higher quality plants.

The government will work alongside industry associations to develop planting guidelines to ensure newly planted crops are more climate resilient and can resist to pests, disease and market pressures.

The province will also establish a wine-grape sector task force which will run for two years to develop a road map for an economically sustainable wine industry in the province.  The task force will provide recommendations to wine growers on how to remain profitable and be resilient to the climate and current market.

“The ongoing climate change effects on B.C. farmers, highlighted by recent freeze events, is real and directly impacts individuals and families that make up our industry," Miles Prodan, president and CEO of Wine Growers BC, said in the release.

READ MORE: January deep freeze devastated BC Southern Interior cherry crop

Farmer and BC Cherry Assocation president Sukhpaul Bal said the replanting money is the kind of long-term strategy his growers need.

"Extreme weather has made fruit farming very difficult and we look forward to continuing to engage with our government on the short-term support required," he said in the release.

The province will also work on strategies to support better experiences for winery visitors and promote tourism. Changes will include better touring experiences that allow visitors to enjoy a glass of wine will on a tour, allowing sales in more places on site including tours, allowing more flexibility in sampling and allowing sales in picnic areas.

Some of these changes are expected to be put in place as early as this summer.

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