Cold winter weather and the cooler spring have profoundly affected the BC peach crops, with some producers reporting little or no production this year.
“A couple of the early varieties had blossoms and got pollinated. So, we had peaches on three types, a very light crop, but they are all finished now,” says Jennay Oliver of Paynter’s Fruit Market in West Kelowna.
Oliver’s orchard typically has 10 varieties of peaches. This year, its white-fleshed peaches, Red Globe and Harrow Diamond varieties were the only ones to pull through the winter.
“Everything else was totally wiped out,” she says.
Oliver attributes her peach crop’s decimation to last year’s frosty temperatures, which were intensified by one 24-hour period of intense winds.
“A lot of people were writing it up to the cold spring, but all of our buds were already dead by the time spring came around,” she says. “We had a really cold spell in December when the trees weren’t quite ready.”
BC growers harvested 6,166 tons of peaches in 2019, according to Statistics Canada. But the crop has fallen over the past two years and last year’s harvest was just 5,522 tons.
This year is slightly better than last year, but Oliver hopes for better growing conditions next year.
“The heat dome last year was terrible. That 45° was burning fruit and stopping production. I don’t know which year has been worse actually,” Oliver says. “Last year I remember being like, ‘I hope there is not another season like this again,’ but then this year, I hope there’s not another season like this one. It’s not fun to lose a crop of anything.”
Hoffman Orchards in Kelowna and Peter’s Orchards in Vernon also sustained significant losses in peaches.
Based on claims from insured growers, the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food expects payouts will be on par with past years despite the significant losses.
“This year’s crop is significantly smaller than an average year and there have been 108 claims for peaches to date in 2022, about 20 more than an average year,” the ministry told Country Life in BC. “It is estimated about $450,000 will be paid out to insured peach growers in 2022, which is similar to an average year.”
Despite a lighter crop in the Okanagan, some areas still have some fruit for sale.
Paynter partners with a conventional farm in Osoyoos and an organic farm in Summerland, both of which reported hearty crops.
“It seems that everything north of Summerland has light crops but everything south of Summerland seem to have pretty good yields, at least the orchards we deal with,” Oliver says.