What's New in British Columbia - Spotlight on Apples and Cherries

July 2012

Canada's fruit industry has adapted well to our cold climate and short growing seasons. Southwest British Columbia enjoys about 180 frost-free days every year, and is one of the top two fruit producers of in the country. Our pristine agricultural resources have enabled B.C. growers to produce premium-quality fresh apples and cherries (HS code: 080810: Apples, Fresh; and HS code: 080920: Cherries; Sweet or Tart, Fresh) that are sought in markets as far away as Asia, Europe, South America, and the Middle East.

The tree fruit industry has been experiencing difficult economic times for a number of years, especially for traditional varieties of apples and soft fruit. Newer varieties have resulted in better prices and improved returns for growers. Many growers have adopted a new variety strategy as a way to improve profitability, as new varieties tend to sell at a price premium over older ones. Varieties such as Royal Gala, Fuji and Ambrosia commanded significant returns at their introduction and have continued to do so for a number of years after. Some cherry varieties such as Lapins, Skeena, Staccato and Sweetheart are highly successful. The industry is currently replanting new varieties at the rate of about 600 to 800 acres per year.


Cherries

B.C. is the number one producer of sweet cherries in Canada, accounting for 87% of the planted acreage of the total sweet cherry production. B.C.'s marketed production of sweet cherries was 9,370 metric tons in 2011, with a farm gate value of C$30.8 million. This represents 93% of production in Canada and over 93% of the national sweet cherry crop farm gate value.

Canada's sweet cherry area expanded 30.4% since 2006 to 4,178acres in 2011. Of this acreage, B.C. accounted for 86.6%. 97% of the sweetcherry crop is sold fresh; the rest of the crop is processed.

The main varieties grown in B.C. are Bing, Lambert, Van, Lapinsand Sweetheart. Newer varieties like Sweethearts are late harvest varieties,which are receiving high returns in eastern and offshore markets.

In 2011, Canada as a whole exported $42 million worth ofcherries. B.C. was responsible for almost 95% of these exports, totalling $39.98million. Hong Kong, U.S. and Taiwan are the top three markets. Of the top 10markets for B.C. cherry exports, five are in Europe and another four are inAsia. Exports have experienced significant growth since 2006, when B.C. exported$18 million worth of cherries. That number has more than doubled to almost $40million in 2011.

Fresh food statistics from Euromonitor International show thatglobal volume sales of fresh cherries rose by 17% over the 2006-2011 reviewperiod, outperforming other high-end fresh fruit "treats" like strawberriesand grapes. In 2011, cherries emerged as the second most dynamic fresh fruitcategory, achieving a 4% volume gain, ahead of cranberries and blueberries.


Apples

In 2011, B.C. produced about 24% of the apples grown in Canadaand was the third largest producer after Ontario and Quebec. The total marketedproduction from B.C. in 2009 was 96,614 metric tons with a farm gate value ofC$36.7 million. This represented about 26% of the national farm gate value ofapples in 2011 (Statistics Canada).

About 60% of all planted land in B.C. orchards is plantedapples. Nearly 92% of the apple crop is sold fresh with British Columbiansconsuming around 25% of the apples grown in B.C. The rest of the crop isprocessed, with apple juice being the most popular processed product.

Of the $14.4 million in fresh apples exported from B.C., 74%went to the U.S. Out of the top 10 markets for B.C. apple exports, six are inAsia and two are in South America. There has been a significant decrease in B.C.apple exports since 2006, when B.C. exported $28.1 million worth of freshapples. That number went down to $14.4 million in 2011.

B.C. apple growers, like most Canadian apple growers, have beenexperiencing falling incomes due to world oversupply, weather-related disasters,retailer consolidation and increased foreign competition, both in the domesticand export markets. Washington State is the biggest competitor, producing around30 times more apples annually than B.C. due to its warmer growing climate. Theoversupply of Washington state apples has forced prices below the cost ofproduction. However, the market situation is changing as prices have improvedfrom the low in 2009. The industry is responding with packinghouse cost savingmeasures that should increase grower returns in the long run.


Media Monitoring

B.C. growers replant with tastier, crunchier varieties
Vancouver Sun – May 2012

Old lunch-box favourites such as the McIntosh that many of us grew up with could be a lot harder to find on store shelves over the next decade as the trend to plant sexier varieties of apples grows.

Sleeker, crunchier and tastier apples such as Ambrosia, Gala andHoneycrisp have replaced the softer, mealy types like McIntosh, Spartan and RedDelicious as the top sellers, says Nick Ibuki, a horticulture researchtechnician with the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation.

Just as the McIntosh once replaced the 1950s-era Spartan as themost-popular apple, now it looks as though the Ambrosia has knocked out McIntoshfor top spot in the fruit bowl.

To find out more, please visit: www.vancouversun.com/news/growers+replant+with+tastier+crunchier+varieties/6670282/story.html.

Big cherry crop expected
Kelowna Capital News – May 2012

Close to ideal winter and spring weather conditions should result in a large crop of cherries this year, reports Hank Markgraf, B.C. Tree Fruits (BCTF) senior field advisor. "We were lucky we didn't experience any of the frost issues that other parts of Canada did," he commented.

A fairly mild winter and a long blooming period with little inthe way of freezing temperatures during bloom point to a good season which maybe early as well.

He is forecasting BCTF will see eight million pounds of thesweet little red fruits, nearly double that of the previous year, when a late,cool spring created some hardship for growers.

For more information, please visit: www.kelownacapnews.com/news/151961265.html.


Exploring Urban Consumer Preferences for Apple Cultivars

What does it take to breed a best-selling apple variety?Scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland, B.C.,are collaborating with industry to find the answers, and have come up with someinteresting market research along the way.

For example, PARC scientists conducted research at the 2010Apple Festival at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver toexplore apple preferences among urban consumers of different ages, genders, andethnicities. Three apple varieties were evaluated for their taste andappearance: Ambrosia, Honeycrisp, and the as yet unnamed SPA 493 variety, whichwas developed by the PARC apple breeding program. (The SPA 493 apple will benamed at the 2012 UBC Apple Festival in the Fall.)

A total of 1,182 consumers successfully completed thedemographic survey, taste, and visual assessments. The "sweet" and "tart"apple preferences of the participants were also noted. Statistical analysis wasconducted for the European and Asian sub-groups only, due to insufficient samplesizes on all other ethnic groups. Eighty-eight percent of Asian consumersidentified that they usually ate "sweet" apples while European consumersidentified that they ate both "sweet" and "tart" apples.

Consumers who usually ate "sweet" apples gave significantlyhigher scores for the "sweet" apple (Ambrosia) than the other two apples.Likewise, consumers who usually ate "tart" apples rated the "tart" apple(SPA 493) significantly higher than the other apples. Both consumer groups ratedthe neutral Honeycrisp apple least. Both the red Ambrosia and SPA 493 applesscored high on their appearances, while the Honeycrisp's green colour scoredlower, likely due to a perceived association between green apples and sourtaste.

This research, conducted under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada'sDeveloping Innovative Agri-Products program, is the first of its kind todocument ethnic, age, gender, and choice differences among consumers in an urbanmarket. It will be used to assist industry to understand and more appropriatelymarket apples to their consumers.

The apple breeding program at PARC Summerland began in 1924. Theprogram continues to focus exclusively on traditional breeding methods that haveproduced some of the world's most popular apples. The ultimate goal is toprovide high quality apple cultivars for Canadian apple growers with attributessuch as high fruit quality, high yields, disease resistance, distinctiveappearance and flavour, and good storage and shelf life. It takes 20 years todevelop each new variety.

To view the full report (Report on Urban Consumer Preferences for Apples, Dec 10, 2010), please visit: http://www.picocorp.com/research_and_development.

For more information, please contact the BC Regional office at604-666-6344 or email: atsbc@agr.gc.ca.

 

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