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'Total crop failure' for many Okanagan apricot farmers

There won't be any apricots this summer.
There won't be any apricots this summer.
Image Credit: PIXABAY

KELOWNA - If apricots are your jam, brace yourself for some bad news.

A number of Okanagan apricot farmers are experiencing total crop failure.

“Normally we would have hundreds of boxes by now and we don’t have any,” said Penny Gambell, a longtime tree-fruit farmer based out of Lake Country.

“They were hit by frost. Apricots are more susceptible to the cold. If it goes below -23 C, peaches and apricots and nectarines will be affected. We went between -23 C and -25 C and it completely took out the apricots.”

Gambell’s situation appears to be pretty common around the Okanagan said Glen Lucas, general manager of the B.C. Tree Fruit Growers Association. It's much the same situation in Kamloops. 

“A farmer I know, who has the largest block of apricots in the Okanagan, said they will have no harvest this year,” he said, adding that it’s when the cold snap hits that is most important. If the fruit is brought out of dormancy then the freeze happens, it's a bigger problem.

While “total crop failure” sounds like it may be devastating for farmers, both Lucas and Gambell said it’s not totally uncommon for apricots to get knocked down by winter. 

“They are like the canary in the coal mine, and often it will suffer and nothing else was,” said Lucas, adding that apricots account for less than one per cent of the total BCFGA fruit crop.

And, while some are reporting weaker returns than usual for peaches and nectarines, so far apples and cherries — the economic juggernauts of the valley — are looking strong.

“With apples, it looks like the fruit is good,” he said. “It will probably be an above average crop at this stage. With cherries, there was a bit of damage … but in that case, a bit of damage is a good thing because the remaining grow better.”

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