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Okanagan apple growers being hit hard by financial losses

File Photo.
File Photo.

Okanagan apple farmers are suffering significant financial hardship with higher costs and lower returns, according to the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.

Having heard directly from many growers who recently received their first pool advance from B.C. Tree Fruits Co-op, the BCFGA has contacted other packers who have indicated there's a general weakening of apple prices, for many of the same reasons.

"Returns for apples are critically low this year, after several years of low prices," reads a B.C. Fruit Growers Association newsletter. "Higher input costs, packing costs, the impact of weather on quality, retail consolidation and other factors are putting pressure on prices."

One of the supports being tapped into during these tougher times is the AgriStability program.

"Over the past two years of reduced apple returns to growers, the BCFGA has asked the province and allied with other agriculture associations to seek changes to the AgriStability Program," reads the newsletter. "The government has responded with some positive changes, which will provide meaningful help for many growers."

The new 2019 and 2020 B.C. AgriStability Enhancement Program is established by the provincial government. This B.C.-only program aims to help agricultural producers by offering greater income protection to farmers who have lost income due to weather, trade challenges or natural disaster.

The program includes increasing the AgriStability compensation rate, for all farms, from 70 per cent to 80 per cent on income margin losses greater than 30 per cent.

The AgriStability Reference Margin Limit, which reduced compensation for some farms will also be eliminated.

In addition to this new program, the governments of Canada and British Columbia have agreed to increase the 2019 AgriStability interim payment percentage from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the estimated final 2019 benefit for BC Farmers.

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