Apple and tender fruit growers appreciate support in wake of widespread crop damage

News releases – originally printed in , May 10, 2012

This release won a silver award for news release writing at the 2012 Canadian Farm Writers’ Federation awards

Agriculture minister tours affected areas, meets with industry leaders

Vineland, ON, May 10, 2012 – Ontario’s apple and tender fruit growers are appreciative of the concern and support they’re receiving from consumers, media and the provincial government as they assess unprecedented weather damage to this year’s crops. Ted McMeekin, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, met with industry leaders today while touring a Beamsville-area orchard to get a
first-hand look at the widespread damage that has affected farmers across the province.

“We’d like to thank the Minister for meeting with us today and personally viewing the extent of some of the damage,” says apple farmer Brian Gilroy, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers. “We also appreciate the outpouring of concern and support from consumers and media. The spin-off effects of this crisis will be felt far beyond the farm gate.”

The summer-like weather earlier this year brought blossoms early, leaving them vulnerable to recent frost and cold temperatures. Frost damage results in some trees not bearing any fruit, and if they do, at much lower yields than normal. Some fruit will have visible damage. Although farmers are most directly affected, impacts will also be felt by farm workers, marketers, suppliers, retailers and ultimately, consumers. Initial assessments indicate up to 80 per cent of the province’s apple crop has been affected, as well as an estimated 30 – 40 per cent loss in peach production and a virtually complete devastation of the cherry and plum crops.

“We won’t know the full extent of losses for another few weeks, but we’ve never seen damage this widespread,” says Phil Tregunno, Chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers’ Marketing Board, which represents growers of peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, seedless coronation grapes and chilled and pitted cherries. “There are some government programs available to assist farmers, but there are gaps and we will need the government to work with us to ensure support for affected growers.”

The Ontario Apple Growers represents the province’s 215 commercial apple farmers. Visit www.onapples.com. The Ontario Tender Fruit Producers’ Marketing Board is a not for profit, independent farming organization governed by grower members. Visit www.ontariotenderfruit.ca.

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For more information:
Brian Gilroy, Chair – Ontario Apple Growers, 519-270-3032
Phil Tregunno, Chair – Ontario Tender Fruit, 905-984-0437
Kelly Ciceran, General Manager – Ontario Apple Growers, 905-688-0990
Sarah Marshall, General Manager – Ontario Tender Fruit, 905-688-0990

Ontario apple and tender fruit background information:

  • There are approximately 17 different varieties of apples grown on 16,000 acres in Ontario.
  • The province’s major apple-producing areas are along the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
  • The farm gate value of the Ontario apple crop is approx. $60 million, which includes sales to fresh and processing market and on-farm/pick-your-own.
  • The top five varieties in Ontario (based on acreage planted) are McIntosh, Empire, Northern Spy, Red Delicious and Gala.
  • There are approximately 11,000 acres of tender fruit grown in Ontario. This is a combination of peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, apricots and cherries.
  • Ninety per cent of the production is in the Niagara Region, with the balance located in South Western Ontario and Norfolk County.
  • The value of the Ontario tender fruit crop is approximately $50 million.
  • For many years now, Ontario apple and tender fruit farmers have been working with industry partners (researchers, packers, government and retail) to improve the quality and variety of Ontario-grown fruit for our consumers.
  • Ontario apple and tender fruit farmers focus on providing quality fruit to the marketplace and they have made major investments new varieties and infrastructure on their farms.
  • Apples and tender fruit are planted for the long term and the frost damage has been a huge blow to the farmers and their operations. This year is unique in that the frost damage is province-wide.
  • With the success of buy local programs, both the apple and tender fruit industries have been growing each year.