Spring weather swings hurt fruit farmers

These trees look OK - I'm hoping fruit will follow.

Reports in Ontario and Quebec indicate fruit crops have been heavily damaged by this spring’s weather fluctuations. As summarized by the Globe and Mail:

Extreme weather over the past few months has had a devastating impact on fruit growers throughout Ontario, Quebec, and northeastern United States. Unusually warm temperatures in March coaxed fruit trees out of their winter dormancy early. Subsequent deep frosts, occurring as recently as late April, damaged the blossoms, crippling their ability to pollinate. In Ontario, the fruit industry is expecting to record tens of millions of dollars in losses, according to early estimates.

Apples, cherries and plums have been hardest hit. In the Georgian Bay area, from Owen Sound to Collingwood, one of the largest apple-growing areas in Ontario that produces about 25 per cent of the province’s apples, growers have lost 80 per cent of their crop, says Brian Gilroy, chairman of the Ontario Apple Growers, which represents growers throughout the province. Some individual growers have been completely wiped out.

Ontario produces around 40 per cent of Canadian apples, and the farm gate value of the province’s apples is about $60-million a year.

Ontario and Quebec are really big provinces, so regional results will vary. “The Packer” (covering the fresh produce industry since 1893) reports the full extent of damage in Ontario won’t be clear until June.  The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture fruit production fact sheet says there are approximately 700 apple growers in the province. Half the apples are sold for fresh eating, half are processed.

As reported earlier on NCPR, New York fruit growers were also hurt by weather this spring.

This is my first full spring in North Gower since moving here from Kars last May. I was sad to leave behind fruit trees I’d planted there. Happily, the “new” house came with two mature apple trees in front. This week they’re covered with flowers. Lovely! (Our small household was rolling in apples last fall.)

Seeing the blossoms I was assuming my trees had dodged the bullet. But perhaps the buds were damaged in ways I can’t see yet? My fingers are crossed.

What’s happening with the apple or other fruit trees in your area? Apples have a special appeal, but it’s probably a smart idea to diversify in your home garden, if possible. Amy Ivy thinks berries may provide the home gardener’s best return on time and effort. (You can hear that conversation with Martha Foley here.)

——————- Post Script/update 6/6/12:

CBC news is reporting June crop assessments for Ontario’s 2012 apples crops are pretty bleak.

Ontario Apple Growers association chair Brian Gilroy says that it looks like Ontario apple farmers have lost about 88 per cent of their crop this year.

“It’s devastating,” said Gilroy. “The estimates that we gave of there being 20 per cent of the crop left is probably optimistic. We’re looking at probably 12 per cent.”

The article goes on to say:

The news is not all bad. Northern Spy and Gala apples are in good supply across Ontario. Gilroy estimates a “reasonable volume” for both.

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1 Comment on “Spring weather swings hurt fruit farmers”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    This is the nature of farming. For the average consumer in today’s world, problems for farmers in one area mean next to nothing because food, like everything else, comes from all around the world.
    There was a time when you could only get certain fruits and vegetables at certain times of the year but can now get just about everything “out of season.”

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