To raise awareness of the challenges faced by the apple growers in Okanagan, the BC Fruit Growers Association sold apples at 12 cents a pound in Kelowna on Thanksgiving weekend.
BCFGA billed the sale at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market on October 10 the “BC Apples Farewell Tour” to highlight how low returns are forcing apple growers to cease production.
“The financial returns of the apple growers are continuously declining over the past three years,” says BC Fruit Growers Association president Pinder Dhaliwal, an Oliver grower. “On average, apple growers are getting 12 cents per pound for their produce. However, it cost growers 30 cents per pound. Under such a scenario, it is very difficult for the farmers to survive.”
Apple growers say the BC government’s contribution to agricultural support programs is the lowest in Canada, and Canada’s support level is the lowest among developed nations.
Talwinder Singh Bassi, another apple grower in the Okanagan Valley, says it’s high time government made policies that support food security.
“As farmers are facing losses, they will be forced to quit agriculture. Emphasis should be laid on selling local food first,” says Bassi.
A statement from the BCFGA says that producers are squeezing every penny they can to increase efficiency, and the packing industry is also seeking to improve returns to growers, but government also has a role to play. While the province has devoted significant effort to strengthening farmland protection, it also needs to protect farmers.
“On one hand, efforts and announcements are being made to save the Agriculture Land Reserve, but on the other hand, nothing substantial has been done for the growers,” says Dhaliwal. “A cash subsidy of seven cents per pound was given to [Washington] apple growers during August this year. This kind of support should also be provided to BC apple growers.”