British Columbia’s minimum wage rate will increase to $15.20 per hour on June 1, the highest rate of any food-producing province in Canada. That’s only one of the forces impacting the province’s $118 million tree fruit sector according to Pinder Dwaliwal, president, BC Fruit Growers’ Association.
“Washington state supported its apple farmers with a $0.07 per pound payment in 2020 to offset financial impacts caused by weather, trade and COVID-19,” Dwaliwal told the 132nd annual general meeting held virtually on February 25. “Their apple producers expect to receive another seven to 14 cents per pound in 2021.”
Provincially, the Tree Fruit Replant Program has not been renewed yet for 2022.
Apple returns are averaging about $0.20 cents per pound, far below break-even at about $0.40 cents per pound.
“A lot is at stake for tree fruit farmers,” said Dwaliwal. “The accelerating transition that is occurring will impact the cherry farmers and vineyards. The apple financial crisis will impact the current balance of labour needs and infrastructure investments throughout the (Okanagan) valley.”
With this background, voting delegates voted for the association to develop a 10-year strategic plan and for the renewal of the Replant Program with more flexibility and higher compensation to reflect the reality of $35,000 to $40,000 per acre planting costs. Growers also recommended that the Canadian Horticultural Apple Working Group consider a request to impose tariffs on dumped and subsidized apple imports.
Going forward, Pinder Dhaliwal remains president. He is joined by Jeet Dukhia, elected vice-president and newly elected directors Joginder Dhand, Mani Gill and Ravinder Bains. The board is completed with Ravinder Bains,Sukhdeep (Deep) Brar, Avi Gill and Talwinder Bassi.
Source: British Columbia Fruit Growers’ Association virtual annual general meeting, February 25, 2021