A lovely display of pink and white blossoms usually adorns Archibald Orchards & Winery’s apple orchard during this time of year. But this spring, temperatures in February, March, and April have been unseasonably warm, resulting in a crop failure.
In Bowmanville, ON, the owner of Archibald Orchards & Winery, Ian Archibald tells CBC News, “There isn’t a single blossom.” A small farm built on pick-your-own apple picking did around 82,000 kilograms of apples last year, the farm generally does a brisk business.
Probably not a single apple will be produced this year. Archibald Orchards & Winery owner intends to minimize his losses by promoting other attractions, such as the corn maze, and selling the remaining frozen pies and apple crisps he has stockpiled.
“The experience was unlike anything I have ever encountered,” he says.
Fruit growers in Ontario, Quebec, and the northeastern United States have been devastated by the recent extreme weather. Fruit trees came out of dormancy early in March as a result of unseasonably warm temperatures. The blossoms were damaged by deep freezes in April, which made it impossible for them to pollinate. Based on early estimates, the fruit industry in Ontario expects to suffer losses in the tens of millions.
Cherry, apple, and plum production has been severely affected. According to Brian Gilroy, chairman of the Ontario Apple Growers, which represents growers throughout the province, growers have lost 80 percent of their crop in the Georgian Bay area, which produces about 25 percent of all apples in Ontario. Growing operations in some areas have been destroyed.
It is estimated that Ontario produces around 40 percent of all Canadian apples and that the apples in Ontario are worth about $60 million. The apple industry in Ontario has lost at least $12 million as a result of crop damage in the Owen Sound to Collingwood area alone. It will take a while to determine whether or not other trees in other parts of the province were affected. Trees in other parts of the province are still blooming, and growers must wait to see how much fruit they will bear.
During the growing season, 2,300 foreign workers are hired to work in apple orchards in the province and around Bowmanville. Many of these jobs could be eliminated because of the lack of fruit, and the crop losses would affect countless others.
According to associate professor John Cline of the University of Guelph’s Department of Plant Agriculture, who specializes in pomology, the total value of the Ontario apple industry is estimated to be between $300-million and $400-million when all industries dependent on apples are considered.
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