The majority of British Columbia farmers who grow fruit will harvest a reduced crop due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new survey.
Overwhelming majorities of producers are also scared for the future, particularly due to fears about labour shortages and increased costs associated with following new coronavirus protocols.
That’s according to the BC Fruit Growers Association (BCFGA), which polled its members to help measure what they called the “devastating impacts” of the COVID-19 pandemic on their farms.
“We knew things would be bad coming into the growing season this year, but these numbers are extremely troubling even to those of us in the industry,” said Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BCFGA.
“These numbers should worry anyone concerned about where their food will be coming from this fall, and how much it’s going to cost.”
The survey found that:
Over 67% of members have reduced fruit production due to concerns about the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis
81% are worried about whether they can cover additional costs necessary to adhere to new public health guidelines
87% fear they will not have enough labour to bring in crops
The BCFGA said the fruit sector was already suffering “stiff headwinds” before the COVID-19 crisis, including severely depressed apple prices.
“What is important to recognize is this pandemic has really highlighted the tenuous state of the whole agriculture sector in BC,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the BCFGA.
“If we don’t start to address some of the structural issues in our industry, food security and the food supply chain are at the mercy of whatever the next natural disaster is to come along.”
The BC Interior tree fruit industry represents 800 growers operating orchards and generates $118 million in wholesale revenue.