Bitter news has hit British Columbia, and it is ‘the pits.’
The B.C. Cherry Association (BCCA) issued a press release Feb. 12 stating that the 2024 cherry crop will be “dramatically” reduced due to weather-driven damage.
The association blames a mild start to the winter followed by a sudden and unseasonably cold polar vortex in January for the lack of fruit.
“What made this event so destructive for cherry growers was the fact that less than a week earlier the temperatures were well above freezing. Cherry trees had no time to develop the necessary winter hardiness, and fruit buds were unable to cope with the sudden drop in temperature in such a short period of time,” said BCCA president Sukhpaul Bal.
“This is the most challenging season our growers have seen in our lifetime,” said Bal.
Weather events over the past two years have significantly impeded the cherry harvest, said the association.
In 2021, the Okanagan was hit by a ‘heat dome’ with temperatures in orchards reaching upwards of 47 degrees Celsius, scorching the crops.
The BCCA believes that the 2024 season will be “much worse” than the heat dome harvest. The growers also stated that in addition to a reduced harvest, the cold may also have caused lasting damage to the fruit trees.
“It is certainly possible that trees in the worst hit areas have suffered long-lasting damage with a recovery that could take years,” said Bal.
BCCA plans to meet with both provincial and federal government officials in the coming weeks to discuss the situation and develop a plan to support the growers, packinghouses, and marketers who will be impacted by the loss.