These are certainly hard times for British Columbia’s apple industry, but all is not lost. According to Amritpal Singh, new varieties and a focus on quality could turn things around. Singh is a lead scientist at the federal government’s Summerland Research and Development Centre, heading the apple and cherry breeding program.
Singh: “Apples currently are going through a rough phase. But with new varieties and with efforts towards producing better quality apples, having higher quality products reaching the consumers, things would change.”
Research at the sprawling centre run by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has already transformed the province’s cherry industry.
In the 1990s, sweet cherries were a fledgling crop in B.C. with only $500,000 in annual sales. There weren’t many varieties in the province, and B.C. was locked in competition with Washington state, the biggest producer of sweet cherries in North America. And it was losing the battle. But when the research centre, which has now bred 80 per cent of the sweet cherry varieties being grown around the world, released the Staccato variety for commercial planting in the 2000s, it changed the game for the province.