Ontario's fruit farmers devastated by April frost
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, May 10, 2012 8:38AM EDT
A large portion of Ontario's apple, peach, cherry and other fruit crops were wiped out by frost in April and farmers are looking for help in what appears to be a devastating season.
As well, the failed crops could hit consumers hard as shortages of certain fruits lead to higher prices and fewer locally grown products.
Warm weather in March accelerated the growth cycle of fruit trees that was then followed by frost in April that killed off fruit buds and blossoms, leaving many of the trees barren this season.
"A lot of farmers who are farther away from the lake are totally devastated," Ontario Tender Fruit Producers chairman Phil Tregunno told CTV's Canada AM Thursday.
Farms on lower land masses or farther from the moderating temperature effects of the Great Lakes suffered the most damage, he said.
Some farmers were able to mitigate crop damage by using wind turbines to usher in warmer air during the cold nights, Tregunno said.
Farmers now want the province to declare the crop season a disaster so they can access emergency funds, he said.
"Certain farm families are completely without income," Tregunno said.
The local tender fruit industry is worth around $48 million and farmers are looking at losses of around $24 million, he said.
Quebec farmers also suffered fruit crop damage, but because Ontario works independently, total losses in both provinces have yet to be tabulated, he said.
Growers in New York, northern Ohio and Michigan were also nipped by sub-zero temperatures in April.
The cherry and plum crops are close to a 100 per cent loss in Ontario, Tregunno said.
About 70 per cent of the peach crop survived the April frost.
Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin is touring orchards Thursday afternoon to assess the damage.
Any disaster assistance for farmers is covered 60 per cent by the federal government, while the remaining 40 per cent is provided by the province.
Although Tregunno doesn't speak for apple growers, he said losses for that crop appears to be around 80 per cent.
Last year, apple farmers produced around nine million bushels worth $60 million.
More grapes survived this year because they blossom later and are hardier, he said.
"We do have reduced crops and we do cut back and we're hopefully looking for some assistance," he said.
Tregunno, who owns a fruit farm along the Niagara River, said the trees aren't permanently damaged and will blossom again next year.