Food security in B.C. is being threatened by the crushing weight of COVID-19, according to worried fruit growers.
A member survey by the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) suggests that more than 67 per cent of farmers have reduced fruit production as a result of uncertainties and risks created by COVID-19.
The group says the survey paints a stark picture of the devastating impacts of the pandemic as producers are forced to cut crops to stay afloat.
“We knew things would be bad coming into the growing season this year, but these numbers are extremely troubling,” 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 BCFGA laments that the fruit industry was already facing stiff headwinds entering the 2020 growing season. For example, apple prices have been “so depressed” for three years running that the cost to produce has actually been higher than the price farmers receive for their crops.
Four out of five survey respondents say they are concerned about being able to cover the additional costs associated with following all virus-related public health guidelines. Seven out of eight are concerned they will not have enough hired labour to bring in their crops.
“What is important to recognize is this pandemic has really highlighted the tenuous state of the whole agriculture sector in B.C.,” said BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas.
“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,” he added.
The interior tree fruit industry represents 800 growers operating orchards that generate $118 million in wholesale revenue and contribute $776 million in economic activity.