The cranberry harvest season is nearing its end, and the production of the bright red berry has not been strong this year.
According to a local Langley farmer, the crop yield is down 50 per cent.
Brian Dewit, owner of Riverside Cranberries, finished harvesting his crop last week and said farms across the province did not have a fruitful season.
“We’ve got some long-term farmers in the industry, farms that have been going for 50, 60 years and these growers have said they’ve never seen this before,” he said. “I don’t know if we can attribute it to the winters, [they] just aren’t as cold as they have been so the plants never go fully dormant.”
Dewit said the plants are expected to fall dormant during the winter months, but recalls January being an unusually warm month.
“The plants started to think about waking up… everything was budding,” he said.
However, in February there was a cold snap and the plants experienced “freeze drying,” Dewit explained, where water had started to move up into the buds causing them to swell up but the dip in temperatures in February resulted in them freezing over and eventually breaking off.
“Some farms got hit worse. Some farms survived with very little impact. It was totally random, but overall it’s affected the industry to the tune of at least 50 per cent of last year’s crop,” said Dewit.
British Columbia accounts for 12 per cent of cranberry production in North America, according to the province’s growers’ association.
Mike Wallis, manager at the association, was reluctant to say how much the crop yield was down because the final numbers aren’t in yet but said he estimates between 40 to 50 per cent.
‘The general consensus is the crop is down,” he said.
Wallis said the industry had it’s best production last year and attributes that to the downturn this year, as well as what he called “winter injuries.”
“Once you have a big crop, the following crop it takes a little bit out of the plant,” he said.
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However, Dewit said his plants still looked promising after last year.
“Typically we average between 85 to 90 million pounds a year in production for the whole province and last year we did a 120 million pounds, so it [was] up significantly. So the plants looked good after that, surprisingly, considering the stress of carrying a huge crop,” Dewit explained, adding much of the summer was troubled by smoke from the forest fire.
The local farmer attributes last year’s surge in production to the high volume of honey bees out in the fields.
However, he isn’t reading too much into what this might mean for next year’s production.
“There are so many variables that come into play when you’re farming. You can do everything by the book and still end up with anomalies,” he said.
Aside from some field maintenance and eventually winterizing his equipment, Dewit is wrapping up for the season. He said he won’t be looking at starting any major fieldwork until April.