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

City of Fernie introduces shipping container restrictions

Containers are prohibited on residential properties except in very specific instances

Outdoor facilities reopen in the Elk Valley

Select parks, outdoor playgrounds, and public washrooms reopen for public use

Elk Valley municipalities send out 2020 property taxes

2020 property tax payments, annual utility payments, and homeowner grant applications are due July 2

ERA seeks to enhance local wetlands

The ERA proposed a new project at the lastest Committee of the Whole meeting

Pay guarantee removed for some Kootenay on-call paramedics

Guarantee phased out as BCEHS introduces a new “scheduled on call” model

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read