Hubert Pomerleau picks Red Delicious apples from an orchard in Summerland in this 2016 photo. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fruit growers throughout British Columbia will face additional challenges. (Summerland Review file photo)

B.C. orchardists face challenges from COVID-19 pandemic

Physical distancing and availability of workers will affect fruit growing operations and harvest

Fruit growers in the Okanagan and Similkameen are facing challenges as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Brown, a Summerland orchardist and the president of the B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative, said the pandemic is already affecting those who would normally be hiring temporary foreign workers to assist with pruning, thinning and harvesting.

“The foreign workers stream has been interrupted,” he said.

While Canada’s borders have been closed, the regulations allowing temporary foreign workers to come to Canada have changed in the past few weeks.

However, some fruit growers who were expecting to bring eight to 10 workers into the country have only been able to bring in two or three — or in some cases, none at all.

READ ALSO: Summerland orchardist provides training videos

READ ALSO: Summerland orchardist finds joy in the fruits of his labours

While Brown and some other fruit growers have completed their early pruning, the next challenges will be hand thinning and picking, since these are tasks requiring much labour.

In the past, Brown has hired Canadian workers from Quebec and elsewhere to provide part of his summer labour force.

This year, he expects fewer Quebec workers and fewer transient labourers during the fruit harvest.

Some local workers who have been laid off from other jobs may fill a portion of the labour gap, he added.

Once a labour force is in place, the regulations governing COVID-19 will result in changes to orchard operations.

People are to practice physical distancing, keeping at least two metres from each other in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

During the picking, this two-metre distance can be observed. Brown said fruit growers may assign rows of trees to individual pickers, and may set out individual bins for each to use.

However, those who have fruit storage areas at their orchards will face additional challenges when loading the fruit into these areas.

“This is an essential service. This is food,” Brown said. “This is an operation where you can’t tell your employees to work from home.”

He added that the challenges facing British Columbia’s fruit growing industry are the same challenges facing food producers around the world as the pandemic continues.

“It certainly brings food security questions home,” he said.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

AgricultureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sex offender Danny Depew sentenced in Abbotsford to 2.5 more years

Depew still has child-luring charges before the courts in Ontario

Abbotsford Airshow launching virtual Aerospace Camp

Online S.T.E.M. open to students aged 10 to 15, starts later this summer

PHOTOS: Playtime is back!

Paula Morrison of Angel Daycare Centre captured a moment of absolute joy

VIDEO: RCMP Emergency Response Team at known drug house in Chilliwack

Armed officers respond to reports of shots, bring in ERT, K-9 unit and spike belt

Abbotsford’s Silver Hills participates in Operation: Share the Love

Local bakery teams up with pair of Vancouver-based businesses to give workers free food

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Golden Ears park expected to be busy the first camping weekend of season

Campgrounds expected to be full or close to full

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Aldergrove man, 60, can ‘finally afford to retire’ after winning $24M in lottery

Ron Cumiskey plans to use the hefty Lotto 6/49 winnings to stay close to home and his daughters

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

UPDATE: Highway 1 still closed after body found north of Yale

Coroners Service reportedly on the scene, highway has been closed for 10 hours in both directions

Most Read