B.C. fires take toll on producers; fruit sector hurt by heat

The wildfires that burned across British Columbia this year affected producers in varying degrees.

“It impacted the fields. I saw photos from throughout the Cariboo that lost everything. The trees are still standing but all the grass is still gone but they lost a lot of the crop for the year,” said Serena Black, general manager of the B.C. Forage Council.

“Then the producers in the area that weren’t impacted were contacted pretty immediately by the government looking for extra feed that could be supplied to the regions that were hit.”

For fruit growers, there were no direct effects.

“We didn’t have any orchards damaged by fire,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, which is based in Kelowna.

According to information provided by the provincial agriculture ministry, producers in the province were unable to access their fields in a timely manner because of the evacuation orders that were in place.

“What caused the forest fires was very hot, dry weather and so that did have an impact on our growing season,” Lucas said.

“When the temperature exceeds, certainly if it exceeds 35 C, the fruit trees, it shuts down the growth.”

The heat also affected harvest timing for fruit growers.

“The other thing, especially heat combined with sunlight, is that we can get sunburn on the fruit,” he said.

The smoke from the fires made the direct sunlight less intense.

Lucas said the fruit is also one size smaller than in an optimal year.

“The fruit is still a good size. We still have a range of size, so we will be able to serve the markets.”

The B.C. Grain Producers Association didn’t see an impact.

“We didn’t have any fires up here in the north and in B.C., 95 percent of grain production is in the northeast corner,” said president Rick Kantz.

An AgriRecovery Fund is available for B.C. farmers and ranchers affected by the forest fires.

Crop adjusters from the ministry have begun the process of evaluating production insurance forage losses, and forage claims have been made in the areas affected by the wildfires.

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