NEWS

Severe Storms Strike Summer Crops

07/24/2012 02:15 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT
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Fruit growers in the Okanagan say severe summer storms have caused unprecedented damage to their crops, dashing their hopes of a bumper year for cherries and other fruits this summer.

In May, B.C. Tree Fruits declared that this year, local cherries would be in stores earlier than expected, and that it was expecting a huge crop of 8 million pounds – nearly doubling last year's crop of 4.6 million pounds.

Then persistent severe weather began to ruin the fruit, says orchardist Greg Norton.

"If it's not every day it's every other day and at the most I don't think we've had a three-day stretch this year where we haven't had to deal with weather. I mean that's just so unusual."

Orchardists estimate millions in crop losses

Norton says a thunderstorm Friday knocked 15 per cent of the peaches off the trees in his orchards near Oliver, B.C.

That's in addition to millions of dollars in damage done to his cherry crops by wild weather and rain water soaking into the fruit, causing it to crack.

"We're just trying the best we can and every morning we wake up and try and make something out of a bad deal, you know. And some days we win, and some days we don't," said Norton.

Norton estimates 40 to 50 per cent of his cherries are split.

He says so far, he's spent thousands of dollars hiring helicopters to blow the rain off the fruit, but the damage is so bad he's simply abandoning 2 hectares of cherries – it's just not worth the labour.

"Never done this before, never had to make these kinds of decisions," he said.

The B.C. Fruit Growers' Association says Norton story is the case all across the Okanagan. It says the majority of cherries have yet to ripen, and if the storms continue that will mean big losses for farmers.