250 million pounds of apples are grown in the Okanagan annually. “Them apples” bring in a total of approximately $130 million wholesale. It’s the region’s biggest cash crop.
Only 12 cents per pound make it to the growers’ pocket, however, even when the apples sell at an average of $1.29 per pound.
What does this mean for the growers and the B.C. apple industry, of which the Okanagan grows the lion’s share? It’s barely a sustainable crop. Either the growers need to pocket more of the proceeds or, they say, the government needs to step in with some form of subsidies so they can continue to compete with the apples coming in from the U.S. and New Zealand.
Joe Sardinha, President of the BC Fruit Growers Association, says to keep up and compete with the low prices of imported apples, they have to do a better job promoting local fruit.
“We’ve got to tell a better story and tell that story to the consumers and I think once we’ve told a great story and painted a true picture of the producers that are behind that production I think that we will make some inroads with the buying public,” says Sardinha.
“Even small countries like Portugal and Italy grow more apples than Canada because the governments there support agriculture and value local food production,” commented Domenic Rampone, an Okanagan orchardist, to the Okanagan newspaper, following Saturday’s 12 cents a pound apple sale at the Kelowna Farmer’s Market.
The sale at the Farmer’s Market was done to make a point. It was a sort of public awareness outreach put on by the B.C. Fruit Grower’s Association, which is 800 members strong. They hauled out 5,000 pounds of apples to sell at the market to shoppers at the 12 cents a pound bargain rate, and handed out pamphlets explaining the plight of Canadian apples and the people who grow them. They expected the 5,000 pounds to last from 8 a.m. when the market opened until 1 p.m. when the market closes. They were sold out by 10 a.m.
Canadians eat an average of 14 pounds of apples per year, reports The Okanagan. The price of apples they broke down as such: 58% go to wholesale and retail, 18% go to packing, grading and storage, 10% go to processing charges and 2% to brokers.
That leaves a whopping 12 cents left over for the growers. So what do the orchardists and the B.C. Growers Association and its membership want to see? They say Provincial support for Agricultural Land Reserves, orchardists and the schools that have nutritional programs that feature Okanagan apples would be a start.