Tender fruit pays price for odd Ontario weather
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2012 9:43AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:16AM EDT
TORONTO - The early warm weather in March, followed by sudden flash freezes, has caused devastating losses to tender fruit and apple growers in a large part of southern Ontario.
Steve Smith says there are no blossoms on his apple trees in Port Elgin, about 40 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound.
"For the first time ever I don't think I'm going to have a single apple to pick out of 5,000 apple trees on my farm," Smith said. "So that's big."
Smith says he will have other products to sell at his pick-your-own operation, including vegetables and frozen apple pies, and he's hoping people will still visit farms this year.
Agriculture specialist John Cline at the University of Guelph says the apple industry alone in Ontario is worth up to $400 million.
Roughly 2,800 people are employed in the province's apple orchards, including 2,300 foreign workers hired during the growing season.
Smith says he has cancelled two Mexican workers in the fall and a teenage helper over the summer, and he's returning some fertilizer to his supplier.
"If a farmer makes $100,000 you just know he's going to spend at least 75 per cent of it in producing that crop," he said. "There's going to be quite a ramification here."
Phil Tregunno of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board in Niagara says about 30 per cent of peaches and nectarines have been affected, with damage totalling about $24 million to those two crops alone.
Growers won't know the impact on the grape crop until early June.
Based on the laws of supply and demand, prices are almost certain to go up in grocery stores as produce is brought in from out of the province to fill the void.