A long-awaited raspberry replant program kicked off BC agriculture minister Lana Popham’s second term in cabinet this week.
Popham announced $90,000 in funding for the program December 1 as part of a suite if announcements positioned as helping farmers recover from the effects of COVID-19. The program will also see $72,000 contributed by industry for a total value of $162,000.
“I’m glad that we’re getting some assistance in trying to rejuvenate the raspberry industry in BC,” says Arvin Neger of Mukhtiar Growers and a director of the Raspberry Industry Development Council, which will administer the program. “It’s nice to see some light in that industry instead of seeing raspberries being pulled out and planted in other crops.”
Provincial funding will cover the program’s administrative costs as well as the direct costs of replanting.
Growers will receive up to $1.50 per plug and up to $1 per bare-root plant to a maximum of $3,300 per acre, says Carolyn Teasdale, berry industry specialist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
The program will support renewal of at least 25 acres, a fraction of the 2,694 acres of raspberries reported in BC last year. To spread the benefits around, the program will fund no more than 10 acres per grower.
Teasdale says the funding will encourage replacement of older varieties like Meeker with new varieties better suited to conditions in the Fraser Valley. Varieties can be for the fresh or processing market. Growers have been favouring machine-harvestable varieties in recent years, which address the local shortage of labour.
But growers have to act fast. The deadline for applications is January 11, and planting must complete by March 31.
“It’s in its infancy stages so we’ll see where it goes,” says Paul Sidhu of RPR Farms in Abbotsford. “The raspberry community really needed a replant program. I don’t have any issue with the timing. You gotta start somewhere. I think it’s good that things will get started.”
Given the tight timing, the program will primarily benefit those who have already ordered new raspberry stock. However, if uptake is strong enough, the program could be extended.
RIDC chair James Bergen hopes that by growers “buying in” to the program this year, it will become an ongoing opportunity to help drive the industry forward.