Orchardist Jenny Faynor took time out from the post-harvest cleanup on Monday to pronounce the recently completed late season cherry crop a good one.
“Smaller than last year, but really good quality and very few culls,” she said. “And it looks like the prices weren’t too bad.”
Faynor and her husband, Rick, operate their own sorting and packing plant on Erickson Road. This year they were among more than 30 B.C. cherry growers selected to participate in a pilot program that saw the fruit exported to China for the first time.
“It was a very arduous process, but I guess the Chinese want to protect their country from pests and diseases when they import food,” she said. “I hope that in the future they’ll trust the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to do its job, though.”
Faynors shipped only one small container to the Chinese market this year, something Jenny is content to describe as “a start”. Most of their crop went to other Asian markets — Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam — but Creston cherries also made their way into Europe and even Dubai.
The Creston Valley crop was smaller than it often is due to an early spring cold snap that hampered the fruit set. But favourable weather in the late spring and summer allowed the fruit to develop “beautifully”, she said.
“The cherries were firm and full of flavour,” Faynor said.
Last year saw a number of cherry trees pulled out, with some growers giving up on the struggle to produce and harvest a crop that has fought a recent losing battle against larger competitors in Washington state and even Turkey. Low prices in the last few years left some growers reporting a net loss. Other growers increased their tree plantings, though, keeping about the same number of acres in cherries in Erickson and Canyon as in past years.
Under the export pilot program, Chinese inspectors had to personally approve every shipment from B.C. With a population of more than a billion, the Chinese market is well worth pursuing, Faynor admitted. But the paperwork and inspections created added demands for growers who are already accredited under GlobalGAP, an international program.
Faynor said it’s too early to determine the financial success of the 2013 crop, as payment from international markets lags behind delivery.
“We’re farmers,” she smiled. “We don’t know how much we will be left with until we pay everyone else.”